Posted on September 18 2020
The mushroom season is open – in September and October you have the best chances to be successful in mushroom search. However, caution and expert knowledge are required. But what are mushrooms anyway? – Reading time: 4 minutes
We all know about mushrooms – don't we? When asked, most people would probably say without hesitation that mushrooms are a kind of vegetable. It gets trickier when it comes to baker's yeast, because it too is a mushroom. But what are mushrooms really?
A kingdom of their own
The extremely versatile "fungi" are neither plants nor animals but form a third group. Like plants, they are localised, but since they are not able to "feed" through photosynthesis, they can taste organic substances. Exactly, fungi "eat", if you like – with the help of enzymes.
These species-rich creatures are closer to animals – and thus to us – than plants, but they are still not sufficiently researched. Of the estimated 5 million species of fungi, around 100'000 are described in more detail. Among the well-known mushrooms are boletus mushrooms, including our edible mushrooms, but also protozoa, of which baker's yeast is one.
The actual mushroom lives underground
When we talk about mushrooms in terms of what ends up on the plate, we are actually not right – because the so-called pillar mushrooms are merely fruiting bodies. The mushroom, or mycelium, is a weave of fine threads in the soil. If the conditions are favourable, the mycelium sprouts the above-ground umbrellas that we like so much. For this to happen, a warm period must be followed by enough rainfall to ensure that the fruiting body ripens until the spores are released. Most mushrooms reproduce asexually, even if a genus is already more advanced and has germ cells.
The mycorrhiza: symbiosis with fungi
In nature, the versatile inhabitants of the kingdom of fungi have an extremely important function. They often live in symbiosis with other plants, especially trees. Both partners benefit from this coexistence. As a mycorrhiza, the fungus surrounds the plant roots with the threads of mycelium, thereby enlarging their surface area and helping the host plant to absorb water and nutrients. The fungus also protects the tree underground from diseases. Trees are recognisable for this: they share the carbohydrates produced during photosynthesis with the fungus. The symbiosis is only in a few cases limited to certain cooperating species – both the tree and the fungus can be active in many different ways, and the network of mycelium often connects numerous trees underground. A social network, similar to social media.
For the fungi this means: If the forest suffers, this life form is also threatened. Mushrooms and trees together bid farewell to a stressed ecosystem. Only a return to near-natural forestry and consistent climate and nature conservation can preserve the species richness of the forests.
Determine and collect mushrooms yourself
The fruiting bodies of mushrooms in the forest include many popular edible mushrooms – but also highly poisonous species. Those who are not familiar with them can easily be mistaken for another. The bright red toadstool is well known, but other species can also have serious consequences if consumed. Mushroom connoisseurs recommend that beginners first only collect boletuses, as lamellar fungi are easily confused – poisoning is often the result if a leafy mushroom is mistaken for a meadow mushroom. In case of doubt, the nearest mushroom testing centre is the most suitable place to sift the prey.
If you do not go searching mushroom by yourself, you can get good quality edible mushrooms on the market. These include the delicate porcini mushrooms, the bright yellow chanterelles, but also the truffles that grow underground in autumn. Their intense aroma turns even plain pasta or scrambled eggs into a delicacy. Fresh mushrooms also offer taste experiences that leave every tin far behind.
No matter which mushroom you choose, it should be fresh. Because mushroom poisoning is mainly caused by perfectly normal mushrooms that are simply too old and spoiled. The protein of the fruiting body decomposes more quickly than animal proteins, and what looks quite good from the outside can already be rotting inside. A fresh mushroom should be crisp and fragrant. Then you can pick it without worrying.
Mushrooms are worth protecting!
Although we at NIKIN are mainly concerned with sustainable materials from the fashion industry and fight against global deforestation, it is important to think sustainably in other areas of life as well. We want to motivate people to rethink their lifestyle and possibly make it more sustainable.
In our blogs, we do not only talk about the above-mentioned topics, but also about various other interesting aspects of nature – such as the world of mushrooms and their special relationship to trees. Also take a look at our other blogs.