Over the years, I’ve become obsessed with mushrooms. And you know what? I’m ok with that. Here are ten reasons why.
1. Mushrooms are cool.
Did you know their genetics are actually closer to us humans on the family tree than they are to plants? Also, they connect the forest with their mycelium underground in a vast communication network. Have you seen the movie “Avatar”? Yeah, like that.
2. Mushrooms are exciting!
They invite you on a fantastic scavenger hunt for a precious treasure and when you find a group of choice mushrooms, it sends a thrill through your body a little like I imagine skydiving might.
3. Mushrooms are beautiful.
“Colors not found in nature” does not apply here. The variety is astounding. And they are constantly changing their appearance depending on the growing conditions.
3. Mushrooms are delicious.
If you can find the choice edibles, you have found what chefs dream about. Mushrooms have their very own flavor descriptor, “umami”. The best umami flavor and the harder the mushroom is to cultivate are both qualities that command the higher prices that foragers can expect.
4. Mushrooms are the only food source of vitamin D!
And they are a great mineral source. People used to think that mushrooms had no nutritional value at all! We know now that this is false!
5. Mushrooms are diverse!
Mushrooms come in such a wide variety out there, you will never get bored studying mushrooms. And you might learn Latin while you are at it!
6. Mushrooms provide confidence and power.
Knowing how to identify both poisonous and edible mushrooms gives you great power in the wilderness to find great and gourmet food where others would never dare.
7. Mushrooms are quite entertaining to study.
Microscopes and chemistry is involved and there are not many things more exciting than a good species name war among mycologists.
8. Mushrooms are medicine.
Medicinal mushrooms have now caught the attention of medical research into immune system health, cancer, depression and a host of other applications. It turns out that there are numerous fascinatingly useful chemicals that mushrooms can offer us.
9. Mushrooms are cleansing.
Mushrooms have been known to have the ability to concentrate toxins, which is why you should be careful about picking in a polluted area. But they can also be used as a very efficient “clean-up crew” for severe pollution, including soil radiation poisoning.
10. Mushrooms are fun!
They make hiking less strenuous and more of concentrated game because the pace must slow to a crawl, while your eyes stay sharp. Mushrooms will get you out there when you would never go otherwise–pouring rain, hot and sticky, buggy etc. but you hardly will notice the harsh conditions because of the fun you are having. Except when you find nothing. That is the opposite of fun.
Start noticing mushrooms, have fun and learn their names! Happy hunting!
If you would like to learn more about wild edible mushrooms (and edible plants) and even begin foraging for them yourself, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Wild Foraging eCourse in We Are Wildness U by the author of this post, Dr. Kelley Hagenbuch. Learn identification, preparation, sustainable practices, recipes, and specific techniques to safely begin enjoying Nature’s bounty.