I consider plant based diets to be most health supportive. Essentially, we are eating energy straight from the source, the sun, that has taken a little detour through plants for a little photosynthesis where sunlight is converted into an energy substance we can use- glucose. Mushrooms, therefore, have always been a bit challenging for me. They are plants that grow without sunlight. As a fungus, I always saw them as nature's mould, that eerily grew off of dead things in dark and damp environments.
Then I went to visit Matthew and Christina's muhroom farm on the beautiful island of Dominica. This is where I saw first hand, the intricate science behind breeding, growing and harvesting mushrooms. There are many people who make a sport of foraging for wild mushrooms as Michael Pollan wrote about in The Omnivore's Dilemma. This practice seems a little scary to me as one wrong identification and you are down for the count.
Matthew and Christina convinced me and converted me. The brought light to the dark world of mushrooms. Mushrooms are health supportive and really delicious. They are indeed a superfood, rich in an assortment of B vitamins and potassium. They also have the ability to inhibit the action of two different enzymes, one involved in estrogen production and another in the conversion of testosterone to DHT. The consumption of mushrooms, therefore, has been linked to reducing the risk of hormonal cancers- namely breast and prostate.
Mushrooms are also an amazingly eco-enhancing crop. At Matthew and Christina's mushroom farm, they grow their mushrooms in eco-waste from the island's sugar cane processing facility, collecting the fibre left behind from the cane harvesting. That is serious sustainability.
The other interesting thing I learned, and this did not surprise me that much, is that conventionally grown mushrooms are toxic. The worst offender are the button mushroom, the ones readily available in the supermarket, in our pasta dishes, thrown on our pizzas and in our salads. If mushrooms grow off eco-waste (we often see them on dead logs in the forest right?), what happens if that waste material carries a toxic load? Mushrooms grow off whatever is around that can help them get the biggest and strongest most effectively. This often means that they will suck in the chemical waste left behind in the soil. Like peanuts, mushrooms are often used to clean up soil before planting fresh crops.
I am often asked by people what are the most important things to buy organic. My answer has typically been dairy, meat, eggs and strawberries. I am now adding mushrooms to that list.
Here are a few more photos from our afternoon of lunch, farm touring, rainforest walking and jamming at the Mushroom Farm.