Do You Think Mushroom Is Magical?

By Yin Nwe Ko


WE ALL have ever heard the Myanmar usage “The countenance that obtains mushroom.” That is completely right because one cannot conceal his delight when he finds the mushroom he is searching for. The curry of mushroom is a kind of delicious dish. Almost every Myanmar citizen has already tried its taste in any way. Some of the naturally found mushrooms are not edible because they can be poisonous. However, many species found in Myanmar are edible.


Today, agricultural mushrooms can be obtained everywhere in Myanmar and they are not poisonous. To be safe consuming, people often cook mushrooms together with some sweet potato leaves which can nullify the poison if present. I think my esteemed readers will also enjoy having a mushroom curry. Nevertheless, it is a rare dish found on the dining tables of Myanmar families. Mushrooms cannot be got easily. Generally, they can sometimes be found naturally. Whenever they are found, those who find them will never let them escape and will surely pluck them. To be frank, I, myself, do not happen to have a mushroom curry even once a year. Although I like it a lot, I cannot buy it due to being afraid of poison. One day, I read an article about mushrooms which made my interest rise and I would like to share my knowledge with readers who talso enjoy having mushrooms like me.


Yes, it is a smart article which you are going to read as an original one as follows:


Like most gardeners, Joe Perkins has typically been more excited by what goes on above ground than what goes on below it. The quality of the soil was always important, no question. But what was really going on down there? It felt mysterious and impenetrable.


As for fungi, they usually meant one thing in a garden: decay. And that was not good news.


“On a domestic level, our relationship and understanding of fungi in the past has very much been that it’s something about decay, it’s about the disease, and it’s something that we don’t particularly want in our gardens,” says Perkins, a 45-year-old landscape architect based in Sussex, who won three awards at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2019 with a garden he created for Facebook. “It’s fair to say that, as gardeners, we’ve not always fully understood – and I still don’t – the importance of these systems.”


The kingdom of the fungi

What changed everything for Perkins was reading research that was carried out by the American mycologist and fungi guru Dr Paul Stamet as well as a revelatory book by British biologist Merlin Sheldrake: Entangled Life, published in 2020.


This year, the tech giant now called Meta has commissioned Perkins to make another Chelsea Garden. He decided to build an immersive environment that celebrates the symbiotic exchange between soil, fungi, and plants.


“Our relationship with fungi is changing, and I think it will be an irreversible change,” Perkins predicts. “You find yourself getting caught up in all the huge implications of it. It’s a totally separate kingdom from plants and animals, and it’s possibly the biggest kingdom about which we know very, very little.”


“If you imagine how the Victorian plant hunters felt when they were discovering all these new plants back in the 18th and 19th century, it’s almost like that. It’s the new frontier, isn’t it?”


What are fungi?

At this point, a glossary might be handy. “Fungi” is the overarching name of a kingdom of spore-producing organisms that feed on organic matter. “Mushrooms” are the fruiting bodies of fungi, the place where spores are produced.


Mushrooms are sometimes compared to icebergs, because most of the activity takes place under the surface of the earth, out of sight. Here, networks of “mycelium”, the vegetative part of the fungus, twist through the soil and make connections between plants. It is now understood that more than 90 per cent of plants depend on mycorrhizal fungi for improving their water and nutrient absorption, which has led to these networks being called the “Wood Wide Web”.


Jumping off from the theme of interconnectedness, Perkins’s upcoming Chelsea design will include a large wooden pavilion, based on hexagonal structures that represent mycelium pathways. His design will also feature two habitats: the woodland edge and a stylized meadow. If you choose to look for them, Perkins makes plenty of references to sustainability and the threats posed by climate change. But there will also be a vibrant colour scheme. “It has to be a beautiful garden as well because it’s Chelsea,” he says.


Leave the soil alone

Perkins’s new fascination with fungi and their mycorrhizal relationships with plants is not just theoretical; it has made an impact on how he gardens on a practical level, too.


“The old advice was to get air into the soil and get rid of all the weeds and everything. And actually, the process of digging up through that surface layer just pulls apart all the mycelial connections. So, from my observations, I would say don’t do that. Leave the soil alone.”


Perkins has other radical, even hair-raising tips for gardeners. “Don’t be too tidy,” he says. “Some fungi are decomposers, and they will take the dead plant material back into the soil and recycle it and make it available to the other plants for nutrients. If you really don’t want to do that, at least leave some towards the back of the borders, so there are some opportunities for that to happen.”


The sky is the limit

Of course, fungi are not only the horticulturist’s friend. These organisms are now finding innovative applications in fashion, health, technology, art, and the construction industry.


One company that pioneers research into bio-based mate rials is Biohm, based in Bermondsey, south London. It was founded in 2016 by Ehab Sayed, who is from Egypt. The company looks to the natural world for inspiration, and its team of 20 is currently experimenting with more than 300 different strains of mycelium to “train” them to consume food waste and the waste of building processes, even plastic, that would otherwise end up in a landfill.


Biohm has also developed mycelium insulation, which can compete with traditional petrochemical and plastic-based construction materials in its thermal and acoustic properties but is safer and non-toxic.


Last year, Biohm received backing from Waitrose. The British supermarket chain created a £1m grant from the sale of carrier bags, to fund Biohm’s work on breaking down plastics using mycelium. Sayed suggests that the results – which will be “transformational” – are just two years away from being available at scale.


“The sky’s the limit,” he says. “We’re exploring projects in outer space at the moment, seeing how we can grow mycelium in a vacuum, and looking at how we can break down toxins that have been completely irremediable.”


What really excites both Sayed and Perkins, though, is how little we know about fungi and their by-products. It is believed that we have only documented six per cent of all fungal species: there could be anywhere from 2.2 million to 3.8 million species in the world, which is up to ten times more than the estimated number of plant species.


“What I love about mycelium is it’s the source of life, really,” says Sayed. “It’s what enables the cycles of nature to take place. There’s so much we have to learn from it, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.”


Mushrooms are neither fruits nor vegetables, yet it is common knowledge that edible mushrooms exist. Mushrooms are classified as fungi, which makes some people avoid eating them. You can tell people about mushrooms’ nutritional value, having nearly zero fat, low calories, and low sodium, but that will not convince everyone to immediately add the fungus to their diet. As a fungus, you may associate mushrooms with the ground or dead tree roots from which they grow. This does not help make them more appetizing. So, what do mushrooms taste like? Do they all taste the same?


Mushrooms generally taste a bit earthy and depending on the variety somewhat spongey texture. The fungi’s slightly savoury flavour makes it a common meat substitute among vegans or vegetarians. There are different kinds of mushrooms, all of which may not offer the same earthy, savoury flavour. This article also discusses the flavours of common edible mushrooms you can find in your local supermarket.


Generally, mushrooms have an earthy, slightly savoury flavour. However, the answer is no because different types of edible mushrooms may offer different flavours that you might compare with chicken meat. Overall, mushrooms should taste like the dish you are adding the ingredient into. Mushrooms lend a unique texture that can pass for meat and absorb the spices of whatever dish you are cooking.


May all mushroom curry lovers have sweet pleasure and smiles by consuming its magical taste.


-Guardian News & Media 2022 -Spotlight 2022