Although they may look like plants, mushrooms are not plants. They are, in fact, life forms belonging to the Kingdom Fungi. In the East, particularly in China and Japan, and even parts of the Middle East, mushrooms have long been valued for their perceived medicinal properties. While many people in the Western world share some of these traditional uses, mushrooms are mostly enjoyed in pastas, salads, soups and other dishes.
Today, there are around 10,000 known types of mushrooms all over the world. There may, however, be untold numbers of edible and inedible mushroom varieties still waiting to be discovered in fields and forests. One may wonder what these ‘lowly’ fungi have that merits a great deal of attention from the scientific community.
Mushroom species are taxonomically categorized on the basis of how these organisms feed themselves. One such category is the saprotrophic mushrooms, or the decomposers, which thrive on decaying plant and animal life. These fungi release acids and enzymes which break dead tissue down into more usable nutrients. In effect, they recycle diseased or dead organisms into compost or soil, thereby helping clean up the environment.
Saprotrophs include some gourmet mushrooms like morels, which top chefs seek out for their taste and elusiveness. Also included are Portobello/Button mushrooms and Cremini which are among the common edible mushrooms found in most supermarkets. Researches over the years have found many an edible mushroom medicinal as well.
For centuries, traditional healers in China ascribed many fungi such as the mushroom medicinal properties, which are currently under study by scientists in different parts of the world. These treasured fungi include the tasty Shiitake mushrooms which are not only coveted for their great flavor, but also as a nutritional supplement. Oyster and Maitake mushrooms also belong to this group.
Most edible mushrooms provide savor for gourmet dishes and are highly valued by international chefs. However, some studies also show that these same mushrooms can promote wellness in humans, as leading traditional healers credit certain species of mushroom medicinal qualities. Edible mushrooms can provide you with hearty meals while helping you improve your health. People who are not fond of mushrooms, but are interested in enjoying their perceived health benefits can opt for the many extracts available in stores that carry nutritional supplements.
Different Types of Mushrooms and their Various Uses