The internet is full of fabulous facts about everything from current events to the history basket weaving. Because of this, as we research for our daily content on food trucks, food carts and street food, we stumble upon some items of knowledge that we just did not know. We have decided when these fun facts pop up, that we would share them with our readers in our section titled “Did You Know?”
For today’s Did You Know fun food facts we will look at Mushrooms.
The Facts: Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals; they were reclassified in the 1960’s into the separate Kingdom of Fungi. The part of the fungus that we see is only the “fruit” of the organism. The living body of the fungus is a mycelium made out of a web of tiny filaments called hyphae. The mycelium is usually hidden in the soil, in wood, or another food source. A mycelium may fill a single ant in the case of parasitic fungi, or cover many acres. The branching hyphae can add over a half mile (1 kilometer) of total length to the mycelium each day. These webs live unseen until they develop mushrooms, puffballs, truffles, brackets, cups, “bird’s nests,” “corals” or other fruiting bodies. If the mycelium produces microscopic fruiting bodies, people may never notice the fungus.
- Hieroglyphics found in the tombs of the Pharaohs suggest that the ancient Egyptians believed the mushroom to be “the plant of immortality.” The mushroom’s distinct flavor so intoxicated these demi-gods, that they decreed mushrooms to be food for royalty alone, and prohibited any commoner from handling the delicacies.
- February 4th is National Stuffed Mushroom Day.
- October 15th is National Mushroom Day.
- All mushrooms are fungi but not all fungi are mushrooms. The Kingdom of Fungi also includes yeasts, slime molds, rusts and several other types of related organisms.
- There are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million species of fungi on planet Earth, of which only about 80,000 have been properly identified. Theoretically, there are 6 species of fungi for every 1 species of green plants.
- In some ways, mushrooms are more closely related to animals than plants. Just like us, mushrooms take in oxygen for their digestion and metabolism and “exhale” carbon dioxide as a waste product. Fungal proteins are similar in many ways to animal proteins.
- Mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds, and a single mature mushroom will drop as many as 16 billion spores.
- Some South American Amazon tribes have one word that refers to both meat and mushrooms; they consider mushrooms as equivalent to meat in nutritive value.
- Early Romans referred to mushrooms as the “food of the gods.”
- Mushrooms have been successfully used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat many different types of health conditions.
- Penicillin and streptomycin are examples of potent antibiotics derived from fungi.
- Just like humans, Mushrooms can produce Vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight and UV radiation.
- There are approximately 200 mushroom species cultivated, 20 of which commercially in the US – 854 million lbs produced; 389 million lbs imported; 18.6 million lbs exported.
- 4 pounds of mushrooms are consumed per capita in the US every year.