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Mushrooms are having a moment. The Fantastic Fungi film premiered back in 2019, and since then the popularity has only, well, mushroomed. Mushrooms were deemed the ingredient of the year by The New York Times back in 2022. They “took over” the consumer products industry and became one of the most-Googled search terms. They even became the maligned, humanity-ending villain in a video game turned hit HBO show.
Most importantly, mushrooms turned a film into a global movement — and a community of like-minded truth-seekers. For that, we are eternally grateful.
Mushrooms have been part of the human experience for millennia. Hippocrates used them as part of his apothecary, and Ötzi, the ice man who was born around 3275 BC, was discovered in the Alps with mushrooms in a pouch.
While we love seeing mushrooms trending, we’re also certain that they won’t soon go out of style. Nature is (and always will be) our greatest teacher, and we look forward to being inspired by the magic and mystery of mushrooms for the rest of our years on Earth.
Read on for some mushroom milestones that have inspired us recently.
Mushrooms are nature’s scavengers, uber-gifted at breaking down organic matter. Now, mycologists in wildfire-prone areas like Colorado, are hoping to harness mushrooms’ innate talents to prevent forest fires. A recent experiment used native fungi to accelerate the decomposition of dead wood that could later pose a fire risk. It’s a win-win, preventing environmental catastrophes while enriching the soil.
Nature reminds us we’re never too young or too old to learn something new. Recently, a 10-year-old boy discovered a rare mushroom in Rhode Island! Boletus billeae, or Billie’s bolete, the mushroom is on a list of potentially threatened species of fungi. The boy, Silas, has been mushroom hunting for years — and was recognized at age 7 by the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club for identifying 50+ species of mushrooms! We hope that Silas’ story inspires more young foragers.
Different strains of fungi are used to produce all kinds of foods, from plant-based “meat” to blue cheese. And now a company based in the United Kingdom is creating new ways to use fungi to feed people, a major development given the potential and interest in “future” foods. The strains they’re researching are already used to produce dairy and ferment soybeans, and scientists hope this can help identify more sustainable and meat-free ways to nourish people.
This is a story that is heartbreaking but motivating. Climate change is real, and it’ll take all of us to stop it. If you watched the Fantastic Fungi film, you learned how trees rely on the mycelial network to communicate. Unfortunately, a warming planet is interrupting those crucial messages. Researchers want to learn all they can to protect the important relationship between trees and fungi.
Here’s another headline that’s a sign of our times — and a reminder to prioritize safety when foraging. There are so many wonderful and informative books on mushrooms out there, written by those who love and appreciate nature. But AI has also made it easier to create e-books on any topic, including foraging. Those books are not reviewed for safety and are no substitute for the guidance of a seasoned mycologist. Choose guides written by experts with credentials and experience, and beware of deals that seem too good to be true.
We’ve come a long way from portobello burgers. Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York City, is among the chefs turning to fungi to expand meat-free options. He has been experimenting with a fermented fungi product at his upscale eatery. Other chefs are turning food waste — including tough but umami-packed shiitake stems — into delectable dishes!
The future is fungi, and we’re excited to learn about more ways we can use mushrooms in the kitchen and beyond.