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TAS Country : October 21st 2010
14 Tasmanian Country Friday, October 22, 2010 Opinion NOT BUTTONED UP: A great variety of mushrooms is available to us. Let mushrooms be your medicine OVER the FENCE John Rich ''MUSHROOMS, the great all- rounders'' are the words in the Australian Mushroom Growers Association's (AMGA) well-known jingle. The mushroom is one of the unsung heroes of the food chain, being a versatile food, a great source of health and nutrition benefits and neither fruit nor vegetable. The mushroom sits in a unique and special category all on its own. We have up-to-date, modern mushroom farming businesses in Tasmania operating from Spreyton in the North-West and the Huon Valley in the South. I have recently become involved with the AMGA in a Tasmanian project intended to lift the profile of this pretty amazing food product and to inform and educate consumers about the health and nutrition aspects of mushrooms. But first, some history. Mushrooms are a fungi. It is claimed there are more than 38,000 varieties of mushrooms. Warning: If collecting wild mushrooms, be aware that not all of them are edible. It is essential to know what wild mushrooms are safe to eat. The safe mushrooms are the farmed ones available from the retailers. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, 4600 years ago, indicated that mushrooms were considered to be the ''plant of immortality''. The pharaohs of Egypt decreed that mushrooms were the food for royalty and no commoners were allowed to eat them. This assured Egyptian royalty of the entire supply of mushrooms for themselves. The Chinese recognised the health aspects of mushrooms and have used them for a wide range of medicinal purposes for centuries, probably as far back as the Egyptians. The various mushrooms have been given interesting names in China, such as ''elixir of life'', ''brain power booster'', ''king of mushrooms'', ''mushroom of immortality'' and ''smartest of all''. Each of these mushrooms, according to the Chinese, has considerable bioactive and health properties, identified during many centuries of medicinal use. The French began cultivating mushrooms in the 18th century and mushrooms today resemble what was cultivated all those years ago. Mushrooms were grown in special caves near Paris, set aside for this unique form of agriculture. Mushroom production spread to England and, in the 19th century, to the US. Curious home gardeners began trying to grow this new and unknown food crop. In America, the first book on the theory of mushroom cultivation was produced in 1891. Much has happened in the intervening years. Investment in research and development since the 1940s, has seen some dramatic changes in production methods and the varieties cultivated. Crops are produced now in sophisticated, purpose-built atmosphere-controlled growing rooms. Modern mushroom farming in Australia and around the world developed from the 1960s. South Australia is now home to the world's most technologically advanced mushroom farm. This $50 million investment owned by Doug Schirripa (who also owns the two mushroom farms in Tasmania) covers an area 1½ times the size of the MCG. There are 200 people employed to work in 30 electronically monitored growing rooms. Mushrooms are the sixth most valuable horticulture crop in Australia, after grapes, potatoes, apples, tomatoes and bananas. There are many interesting aspects about mushrooms. One is that they do not depend on light for photosynthesis to grow. They need only compost, moisture and moderate temperatures to proliferate, so therefore lend themselves to indoor, all-year-round production. Mushrooms are cultivated in more than 60 countries, with China, the US, the Netherlands, France and Poland being the top five. In Australia and around the world there has been intensive concentration and research activity on scientifically identifying the nutrition and human health benefits of mushrooms. Because mushrooms have a different nutrition profile from fruit and vegetables, they offer additional reasons for this food to be included as a recommended part of the daily intake of healthy foods. Most readers will be aware of the Go for 2 & 5 campaign. That is, two serves of fruit and five of vegetables each day. Glenn Cardwell, a well-known dietitian from Perth, WA, suggests that this should be altered to be,Gofor2&4&1(mushrooms) to make sure all nutritional bases are covered. Mushrooms are bursting with flavour and have unique tastes and textures, the natural glutamates making them a favourite with meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Mushrooms are a very low-kilojoule food, excellent for people wanting to watch their weight. The vitamin, minerals and other important components in mushrooms deserve a mention. A serve of mushrooms provides more than 20 per cent of the daily needs for each of the B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin, and the minerals selenium and copper. Folate and potassium are also obtained from mushrooms. Mushrooms provide bio-available vitamin B12 in exactly the same form as beef, liver and fish. This has been identified from ground-breaking work at the University of Western Sydney. Another fascinating breakthough in recent times is that while field mushrooms will have vitamin D, initiated from exposure to natural sunlight, it is now possible to apply a short burst of ultra-violet light to farmed mushrooms for them to have in excess of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D. This vitamin is recognised as essential for human health and wellbeing. It will not be long before Tasmanian consumers will be able to buy Vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms. One of the most exciting health aspects of work currently being done with mushrooms is in prevention of breast and prostate cancer. The button mushroom contains compounds that suppress two enzymes involved with cancer called aromatase and 5-alpha- reductase. Mushroom consumption can suppress these enzymes and may have a significant role in preventing such cancers. It is claimed that women eating 10g of mushrooms or more daily reduce their risk of cancer by more than 60 per cent. Human clinical trials are under way and there is confidence in the air that these will prove mushrooms to be of major benefit in preventing cancers. On Sunday 7 November we re recognising and thanking the people who volunteer their time and energy. Join us on Celebrate Tasmania Day to thank volunteers like Chris who help to make Tasmania a better place to live. Find out more -- visit www.celebratetasmaniaday.tas.gov.au THAT S WORTH CELEBRATING. DPAC2870TCO1rj
October 14th 2010
October 28th 2010