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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Mushrooms: Nature's Wonder Food

Growing mushrooms is not only good for us it's good for the earth too.

Believe it or not, mushrooms just might be “the next big thing” in food. Around the world fast-growing hardy varieties like maitake, shitake and oyster mushrooms are catching on as a tasty and practical answer to world hunger. Mushrooms are adept at converting natural debris into protein- and vitamin-rich food. Gourmands find them a perfect addition to recipes. All have medicinal value. The single exception is the common white “button” mushroom, which doesn’t make our list of good-for-you ‘shrooms.

“We think of mushrooms as a fungal plant, but they’re actually the fruit of a plant called mycelium,” says Jeremy Davis. In his classroom leading public workshops at the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) demonstration farm in Florida, Davis enthusiastically shows how anyone can grow mushrooms in a jar, bag, box or indoor or outdoor bed. They’re a naturally organic crop.

Experiments at ECHO have produced super-yields using columns of rice straw mixed with banana leaves as a growing medium. But mushrooms as readily take to wood chips, sawdust, household compost, agricultural leavings and logs hanging around the forest floor. “This healthy fungus among us can crop up on just about anything,” says Davis. He lists coffee grounds, peanut shells, hulls from cereal grains and cotton seed and citrus pulp, even old newspaper and waste paper products. He notes that suitable sterile straw is available in a well-stocked arts and crafts store.

Beyond gangbuster nutrition, many mushrooms have proven medicinal abilities. While the bitter-tasting Reishi mushroom is strictly medicinal, many good-tasting culinary mushrooms also stimulate the human immune system and produce a slew of natural antibiotics. For example, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, maitake mushrooms are useful in fighting cancer, viruses, high blood pressure and high blood sugar while shitakes help cut cholesterol.

“My grandmother was cured of stomach cancer after an Oriental physician added mushrooms to her diet,” says Davis. “That’s what first got me interested. I so strongly believe in their value that I now teach mushroom cultivation full-time.”

Paul Stamets, the man who wrote the book on mycology based on 30 years’ pioneering experience in old-growth forests, is the author of Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and The Mushroom Cultivator. More recently ECHO has produced “The Mushroom Grower’s Training Manual” DVD as a practical introduction to mushroom culture.

“I believe fungi will play a pivotal role in the 21st century,” says Stamets. “Native people worldwide have long known the benefits. Many view them as spiritual allies. I see them as guardians of our future.”

Stamets also foresees a quantum leap in these plants’ popularity as gourmet and medicinal mushrooms are taken up as a sustainable cash crop by organic gardeners, commercial cultivators, researchers, nutritionists, and ecological managers.

Worldwide backyard mushroom cultivation is an equally powerful tool for restoring and replenishing Earth’s overburdened ecosphere. Mycelium plants are historic champions in the face of natural disasters, coming to the rescue to recycle carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and other essential elements and rebalance soil pH fast and efficiently. Growing mushrooms is not only good for us, it’s good for the earth too.   For starter kits, visit, email [email protected] or call 800-780-9126. For an instructional DVD or workshop schedule, email [email protected], or call 239-543-3246.


Nutritional Value Protein—Contain an average 19 to 40 percent high-quality proteins and all nine essential amino acids in dried form. Fat—Come in at low to nil at 1 to 8 percent, mostly unsaturated fat. Carbohydrates—Include little sugar and no starch. Mineral Salts—Deliver more than many meats, double that of most vegetables. Have substantial phosphorus, potassium and lesser amount of calcium plus sodium, magnesium, aluminum, zinc, iron and copper. Vitamins—Are rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B9 (folic acid). Oyster mushrooms surpass the others in B1 and B2.

Medicinal Value Used in treatment of—Diabetes, Hypertension, Kidney problems, Heart ailments, Viral infections, Cancer and tumors, Convulsions, Malnourishment

Source: by S. Alison Chabonais

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