History Of Mushrooms As Food
The word mushroom comes from the Gallo-Roman word “mussiro” which then later evolved to a Middle English word “mussereroun”.
The practice of consuming mushroom is called Mycophagy. Mycophagy is believed to be a practice that dates back millions of years ago. There are myriad varieties of mushrooms but all are not eaten as some can be poisonous. Psilocybin mushrooms are the ones that have been used for eating as well as spiritual and medical purposes in many cultures around the world.
It was no wonder that Mushrooms were used a lot as they were easily preserved thus making it a perfect food source for cold winter days.
Fossils of edible mushroom species were found the 13,000 year old ruins in Chile, but the reliable evidence of Mycophagy can be dated back to several 100 years BC in China. The Chinese used mushrooms for medicinal properties as well as for food.
Romans and Greeks also consumed mushrooms. Close to 4600 yrs ago, the Egyptian pharaohs liked it so much that they even tried to restrict the consumption to the upper class by making it a royal food. Later on the Roman Ceasers used to have a food taster to taste the mushrooms right before the Caesar consumed it to ensure that they were not poisonous.
Around the 18th century the French were considered to be a leader in formal mushroom cultivation. Louis XIV was supposed to be the first mushroom grower and the mushrooms were cultivated in special caves near Paris set aside for this purpose.
The mushrooms were taken to England from France by the gardeners of England who found that it was a very easy crop to grow that saved space, time, money and labor. Mushroom cultivation became quiet popular in England especially with new experiments being conducted on the spawn and the amount of publicity mushroom cultivation got in journals and magazines.
In the late 19th century or 1800s, mushroom cultivation reached the United States. But since the spawns that crossed the Atlantic were spoiled by the time they reached US, mushroom cultivation wasn’t a success initially.
The first book on mushroom cultivation “How to Grow Them; A Practical Treatise on Mushroom Culture for Profit and Pleasure” was published in 1891 and encouraged and helped a lot of people in improving their mushroom farms but they still had problems with getting their hands on high quality spawn. As a solution to this problem, after a lot of experimentation in 1903 two USDA scientists produced the perfect pure-culture virgin spawn. Since then the mushroom industry has boomed and today mushrooms are produced in every state with Pennsylvania accounting for 40% of the national mushroom production!
Before 1940 it was the Italian brown or crimini mushrooms that was mostly consumed but today a number of other mushroom varieties are used for cooking like the shiitake, enoki, oyster, morels, cepes, chanterelles, and more.
Today mushrooms can be used in your side dishes, as a base for sauces, or as a filling in Savory tarts like a simple Cheese, Egg and Mushroom Tart or Mushroom pies and so on.Celebrate the history of mushroom as food with some of these mushroom recipes.
Mushrooms were actually thought to be the plant of immortality in ancient Egypt.
In many cultures it was believed that mushrooms had properties that could help one find lost objects or lead the soul to the Gods or even produce superhuman strength!! Guess we know what our super heroes included in their diet!