A Mushroom (or toadstool) – seta – is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
Mushrooms are not plants! They need water for their ‘fruit’ to grow. Mushrooms have no skin so they can lose water to the atmosphere very easily and if the body of the Mushroom is submerged in water it is comparable to drowning.
Mushroom describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems.
With most Mushrooms, if the cap is cut off and placed gill-side-down overnight, a powdery impression reflecting the shape of the gills.
Identification of the Mushroom can often be accomplished by using a Mushroom guide. Many species seem to appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. In reality all species of Mushrooms take several days to form. The cultivated Mushroom and the common field Mushroom initially form a minute fruiting body, referred to as the pin stage because of their small size and slightly expanded they are called buttons.
The most common Mushroom is the cultivated white Button Mushroom that has a stem, a cap and gills on the underside of the cap. These gills produce microscopic spores that help the fungus spread across the ground or its occupant surface. There are many poisonous Mushrooms and edibility may be defined by criteria that include absence of poisonous effects on humans and desirable taste and aroma. One of the world’s deadliest Mushrooms, the Death Cap, is said to have been behind the death of the Roman emperor Claudius in 54AD. Although they taste pleasant and resemble many safer varieties of Mushroom, just 1oz is enough to kill a human. Some Mushrooms that are edible for most people can cause allergic reactions in others and old or improperly stored specimens can cause food poisoning. Here in Spain there a numerous wild Mushrooms that we may find not to our taste, but the Spanish love them! Some wild species are toxic, or at least indigestible, when raw. As a rule all wild Mushroom species should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Many species can be dried and re-hydrated by pouring boiling water over the dried Mushrooms and letting them steep for approximately 30 minutes.
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food eaten cooked, raw or as a garnish to a meal and are an excellent source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. They are also an excellent source of the essential minerals. Some Mushrooms or extracts are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases, such as cardiovascular disorders. Research is under way to find their potential to modulate immune system responses and inhibit tumour growth and potential anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. Mushrooms have long been thought to hold medicinal value, especially in traditional Chinese medicine.
Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibres. The chromophores of Mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colours, and all colours of the spectrum can be achieved.