An Ode to Fungi

From their propensity to nourish and heal the human mind, body, and spirit all the way to their ability to degrade contaminants in the environment, mushrooms have lent their services to human societies and the natural world in a myriad of ways. As our understanding of this underappreciated kingdom of life grows, so has all the ways in which we incorporate them into our daily lives. Especially in the current state of climate change, fungi play critical roles in the reparation of the damage that has already been done but also in the creation of solutions that
can prevent the future catastrophic manifestations of our flawed systems, one of the most flawed being our food system. As we aim to shrink the gap between urban landscapes and our food system, local and sustainable food production is at the forefront of our minds. Being a food source that can grow on agricultural waste products such as straw while at the same time producing a substantial amount of nutritional value, mushrooms have been hailed as an
extraordinary solution to many issues concerning food security. Like the mycorrhizal networks that interlink trees of a forest, fungi have been nature's mode of synergy and interconnectedness for millions of years; and during this era of unprecedented disconnectedness with our food, mushrooms have become a source of radical awareness.

As I invite mushrooms into my kitchen and home more frequently, and as gourmet and medicinal mushrooms become more readily accessible, I have become increasingly fascinated by all the creative ways in which mushrooms can be consumed. From dishes as simple as chanterelles sautéed in butter and adorned with fresh cracked pepper to a rich and umami packed mushroom broth that has been simmered for hours, the application of fungi in the kitchen extends as far as the imagination can go. Just take one glance at the menu at Noma, an ingenious restaurant in Copenhagen lead by Danish Chef Rene Rendzepi, during the mushroom season and you too will be convinced of the culinary power and versatility that mushrooms possess.

In the upcoming series of newsletters, we will be taking a deep dive into the culinary and medicinal applications of mushrooms. We’ll travel to the four corners of the earth exploring and understanding the various ways that different cultures incorporate fungi into their life and cuisine. We’ll also take a closer look at the different methods of preservation such as drying, canning, fermenting, pickling, and tincturing. More than anything, we’ll come to understand that
fungi are far more than a source of food and medicine. They are a wellspring of insight, interconnectedness, and innovation.

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