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Adam S. Quick
2 years ago
Trumpets of Death Meets Enoki

I'm not talking about Star Wars memorabilia or my kiddies' nicknames, but in fact, there is something in common with my offspring and Enoki. I heard about it thru the grapevine.


One terribly hot summer day in July there was a wine tour organized and advertised via the Korjuu web site. This weird science dude my missus knows was there too, so everybody probably got sick and tired of his questions, I bet. The topic of Enoki arose while tasting some products of Finnish wines made of berries.


My missus is a wannabe vegan as I have already told in the past. She also likes mushrooms and wine, while I'm a meat-eating beer guy. Now add the nit-picking scientific knowledge served in the presence of exhilarating beverages, and a philosophical feud arises.


The bearded science dude explains that mushrooms are not plants, and wine is also made with fungi, because yeast is fungi. Therefore, my missus shouldn't eat mushrooms or drink wine. That didn't go so well with her.


I have to admit that my old-school undertanding was originally that the living world consists of animals, plants and the small stuff, whatever you wanna call it. So, there is Animal Kingdom, Plant Kingdom, and Microscopic Kingdom. According to that plan, mushrooms are of course plants, when they are so big that I can see them. The yeast in the beer is a bit tricky, because it's so small.


Even my legendary cook book “The Joy of Cooking” – by the dynasty of Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker – labels mushrooms as vegetables.


I heard that this is a terrible misunderstanding. The taxonomy of living things is a quagmire and a minefield all in one, but I was told that my views are archaic. Classifying even rocks is hard, let alone lifeforms. 


An American biologist Robert Harding Whittaker originally brought fungi as a separate kingdom in his Five Kingdom model. Recently the field has become even more complicated – the count is now eight kingdoms –but the point is that fungi eat carbohydrates, inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide. Mushrooms even contain vitamin D. Basically, it sounds like my kiddies, minus the noise. This means that mushrooms increase global warming and carbon footprint, instead of saving the planet like rain forests do. This is a sore spot for the tree-huggers.


But mushrooms can be local food if you pick it up yourself. Buying Quorn mycoprotein from the frozen section of your super market is not local food. Once again nit-picking, Quorn is not made out of mushrooms, but it is fungus. 


I learned that edible mushrooms fall into two basic categories. Those with mycorrhiza, and those without it. In effect, this is team-workers versus garbage cleaners. 


Team-workers like milk-caps, form a network with the trees in the forest, and help exchange the nutrients – a Win-Win situation. They make specific bonds and alliances – a bit like marriages – with specific trees like spruces, and a whole forest can be basically one intricate root system. So mycorrhizal mushrooms can be quite racist. They don't like to bond with strangers.


For example, Saffron Milk-cap (Lactarius deliciosus) forms a bond with pines and is pretty tasty, whereas False Saffron Milk-cap (Lactarius deterrimus) forms a bond with spruces and is rather terrible.


Garbage cleaners don't bond with other living plants. They like death. Shiitake is an example of a garbage cleaner, a wood-decay fungus. It's a white-rot fungus that gets its carbohydrates from trees that have already died, and fallen to the ground. No death goes unappreciated.


The basic question now crystallizes into form: do you rather eat team-workers or garbage cleaners. Both can taste either terrific or terrible, depending on the variety. You choose what to pick. And by the way, Trumpet of Death (Craterellus cornucopioides) is a Black Trumpet or Black Chanterelle, and Enoki (Flammulina velutipes) is a Velvet Shank. All are mushrooms, not Star Wars figures.

Edited 2 years ago
#localfood #lähiruoka
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