Mold, fungus, mushrooms, bacteria, microbes… sounds gross right? Here are some beneficial things you may not know about these little life-forms.
A lot of people don’t understand yet the import role that different Fungi have for your body and the planet. Recent projects are happening to produce leather products, biodegradable packaging, construction/ building blocks, meat replacements, medicines and supplements, products for cleaning toxic spills and plastics, just to name a few. Research has also shown that the entire Biome we live in is in part successful due to how mycelia interact with other flora and fauna. It has been discovered that mushrooms connect the roots underneath the soil (much like an internet) so they can communicate to each other over vast distances. This effect creates a holistic approach to photosynthesis, nutriment transference, the health of soil and seedling growth, helping to maintain the balance.
This effect is much like the way they work within our own bodies; acting in a way that allows for better nutrient absorption, building new or restoring neural pathways in the brain, allowing you to learn more, faster and to stay alert and functioning throughout the day.
In ancient traditional medicines, mushrooms are used for a myriad of treatments and are known to be anti-carcinogenic, antibiotic, immunosuppressant, cholesterol inhibitors, brain boosters as well as stress reducing, stabilizing blood sugar levels and some can even help you sleep. Selenium, Vitamin D, Proteins and B Vitamins are just a few of the active components that contribute to your overall health when you include mushrooms in your diet.
♦ Good Guys and Bad Guys ♦
While there are many fungi out there that are perfectly safe for human consumption, there are many that you probably shouldn’t put in your pasta. Here is a list of the most delicious kinds that can add a boost of proteins, vitamins and minerals into your diet.
- Cook it like meat– Portobello, King Oyster, Laetiporus (Chicken of the Woods), Shiitake, Lobster
- Add fresh or sauteé lightly– White buttons, Brown Crimini, Chanterelle, White and Black Truffles, Enoki, Morel, Black Fungus, Porcini, Matsutake, Beech, Bolete, Tree Oyster
- Drink in a tea or infusion for medicinal benefits– Reishi (or Ganoderma), Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail
If you are excited to go foraging in the woods to find your first fist-full of fungus, exercise extreme caution. There are many out there that will trick you with their beauty, only to leave you in the hospital. It is best to take someone with you that has experience or do A LOT of research before you go chasing mycelia.
♥ Sipping on Health ♥
Certain fungi are known as “adaptogens”, meaning they help the body resist the effects of the stress state, maintaining normal physiological functioning. In other words, allowing you to keep calm and carry on!
Reishi or Ganoderma as it is also called is probably the most beneficial type of mushroom that you can consume to stabilize certain hormones and enhance cognitive behaviours, with effects on your emotional states; Known as “Nature’s Xanax”, lowering Cortisol levels so it is perfect for a stressful day. It also has anti-inflammatory (But those benefits are derived only from an alcohol extraction- not with water) and antioxidant properties, as well as boosts your immune system.
Reishi consumption is 3 – 5 grams a day (in 1 litre of water) however, you can triple that dose for more serious illnesses. If you don’t have a scale, 3 grams is about 2 tablespoons of small pieces or ground Reishi powder. You need to boil Reishi for approximately 2 hours to extract all of the benefits from this dense polypore fungi. This tea keeps very well in the fridge for a few days so you can make a few bottles at a time. You can also infuse other flavours such as ginger or natural sweeteners to make the taste more agreeable.
- Ganoderma can cause some people to have stomach upset or allergic reactions but this is rare. First, try a small amount and make sure it sits good with you.
- Do not take if you’re on blood-thinning medications.
KOMBUCHA AND KEFIR FERMENTATIONS
Prebiotics and probiotics are different forms of bacteria that actually digest larger molecules in your body into smaller consumable by-products. When we eat fermented foods, we are essentially eating PRE digested food, which can be hugely beneficial to those that need the help. For example, the yeast known as Kombucha, digests sugars as well as caffeine and turns the liquid into good microbes, aiding in digestion.
Kombucha is a yeast and bacterial colony that creates a probiotic enzyme, good for gut health. There was one “Original Mother” found a very long time ago (allegedly in Asia) and grew into many many babies as it was split into pieces and shared among few who knew it’s benefits. These days you can find prepared bottles of Kombucha at most grocery stores and in some more health conscious eateries, all different kinds of flavours abound! You can brew it very easily at home using cool, sweetened, caffeinated tea and a little bit of patience.
Brew at least 2 litres of black tea, sweetened with some kind of organic sugar (ANY kind will do!-eg. Maple syrup, raw unrefined cane sugar, agave or what you have on hand) 3 tablespoons per litre of water. Chill the tea to room temperature and pour into a large glass jar with a screen lid (or use a cheesecloth cover and elastic to secure it) and insert your Kombucha Mother. Store in a dark cabinet for 3-5 days until a cake (Scoby) has developed on the top of the liquid. Strain and pour the liquid into glass bottles and store in your fridge for weeks. You will notice that the unopened bottles will develop bubbles after a few days much like a soda.
Kefir was originally found growing on the outside of wooden barrels of aging cheese curd in Europe centuries ago. Unlike Kombucha it does not require caffeine to grow, just some form of sugar. If you are vegan, you can even use it to create a coconut yogurt. Kefir is also safe for diabetics to consume after the 4th day of the fermentation process.
You will notice that Kefir looks like granules- not a Scoby cake- however it is brewed in the same way (minus the tea), with the grains sinking to the bottom instead of floating. The bigger the granules, the healthier your Kefir. For every tablespoon of granules, add 3 tablespoons of sugar to use in 1 litre of water.
- Add different fruits and herbs into the bottles before storing for an extra kick of flavour and health benefits.
- Also try using different teas to begin the process of Kombucha such as Earl Grey or Green Tea- however you need to use MORE of the green tea to get the amount of caffeine required for a healthy Kombucha Scoby.
- You can reuse and grow the Kefir and the Kombucha from splitting them into different bottles.
- Never use stainless steel to store or stir or strain your brews; because of its antibacterial properties, it can counteract the growth of your fermentations.
Mold is not always a bad thing, take for example, blue cheese, Penicillin, Oud incense, beer… All of these are manufactured using different kinds of mold- the cousin of mushrooms.