Grown mushrooms: dietetic and gastronomical quality


They represents a large group of vegetal organisms (there are about 100.000 species, divided in about 3.000 orders), without chlorophyll.
Despite belonging to vegetable kind, they do not have leaves, stems, flowers or roots; they reproduce themselves through spores, i.e. microscopical structures analogous to plant's seeds, from which germinate the mycelium - a pleach of very little filaments called hyphae -, partially hidden in the ground or under fallen leaves.
The mycelium is the real mushroom, even though what we usually call mushroom is just the carpophore, i.e. the fruit.
Mushrooms are ecologically very important because they allow for recycling of organical residues by demolishing them with the help of bacteria.
Many species of mushrooms are used in dairy-farming (fermented cheese), in pharmaceutical industry (production of antibiotics, of vitamins), in chemistry (production of citric and gallic acid, enzymes) and in enological-farming, as saccharomycetes are responible for alcoholic fermentation.
But there are also many parasitical species that damage other vegetal or animal species (mycosis) and that often causes structural deterioration too.
When we speak about mushrooms, however, we naturally think of the wonderful protagonists of our autumnal gastronomy and, thanks to the grown mushrooms, of every-season gastronomy.


In ancient times mushrooms have always been appreciated: in China they were called "food of gods", and they had a first-place-role on the tables of Egyptians and Babylonians.
Then, in classic Greek, they are mentioned by doctor Dioscorydes and enthusiastically praised by Theophrastus, student and successor of Aristotle in the direction of Lyceum.
Hence the fame of mushrooms reaches Rome, where they are soon appreciated by gournets and lauded by literates as Jovinal (mushrooms and fig-peckers were his favourite meal), Plutarch and Oratius, who considered the meadow-mushrooms (the very ones who are now grown) to be superior to every food. They are mentioned even by the greatest naturalist, Pliny the Old, in its work "Naturalis Historia", meanwhile the most famous chef in the classic world, M. G. Apicius, collected a high number of recipes in "De re coquinaria".
During the Middle Age their fame dropped because nobility loved meat (especially game), even though they often appeared on the tables of Federico II in Foggia.
We read that Federico had very detailed ideas on the conservation of mushrooms which " ... had to become whiter by boiling in water, then had to be salted" before being placed in little butts called "cognetti".
In the other hand, due to the work of inquiry and diffusion of culture made by monasteries, now mushrooms becomes part of popular gastronomy.
So, mushrooms were appreciated and studied even in the Middle Age and in the Renaissance: they were even judged so tasteful and aphrodisiac that were banished by the Saint Office because they turned the pilgrim's mind off the penitence related to the Jubilee.
More recently, we see that the eating of this worthy food has always been restrained by the fear of their venomouseness (only at the end of '700 they discovered that it's not caused by the absorption of poison present in the ground or in the plant with which the mushroom is in symbiosis, but it depends on the nature of certain kind of mushrooms) and by their discontinuous availableness, linked to seasons.
That's why man tried for so long to grown mushrooms, with great difficulties, due to the extreme frailty of the reproductive process..
For over one century, however, first in France and then in Italy too, especially in the province of Treviso, every problem is overcome and a new industrial activity bloomed.
The species of mushrooms grown mainly in Italy are: the Meadow Mushroom or Champignon [Psalliota Hortensis], 78% of the complete production, the Plerotus Ostreatus, 20%, and the 2% of other kinds such us the Agaricus.
The national consumption has evolved in the last years but remains not very high.
In fact, we seems to ignore not only the quality of our grown mushrooms, but also the grastronimical resources that they offer.
Even though not very expensive, these mushrooms are available all the year and are a quite refined side dish
Recently there has been alarmism regarding mushrooms, because they tend to accumulate toxic heavy metals (e.d. cadmium and lead) and radioactivity.
This danger is certainly real for spontaneous mushrooms, but surely not for the grown ones..
Regarding radiocativity, we must remember that these mushrooms are produced in greenhouses, so they are not contaminated by uranium bullets or by the more dangerous Cernobyl disaster.
Regarding the ground used, mr. Luca Francescutti (Nuova Agrifung company in Trevignano - TV), who is one of the major producer of this compost, assures that "it is obtained from a fermented and then pasteurized mixture of straw and chicken's dung. It's absolutely secure".
Once stated the complete health of the product, let's analize the dietetic and alimental features of grown mushrooms.
But before that, it's necessary to clarify the main principle of a health alimentation.

Inquiry directed by Dott. Gianluigi Pagano, "The self conscious heart" review supported by the Interuniversitarian Consortium for Cardiovascular Research.

©2003. Farm Agricultural FUNGUS Cordignano (Treviso).