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A Closer Look at the History of Mushrooms

Mushrooms have likely been consumed as food for as long as humans have existed. “The Oxford Companion To Food” states that evidence of mushrooms as a food source exists throughout early settlements in Europe, and that they were of high value in ancient Greece and Rome. In fact, Pliny the Elder and Aristotle both wrote about them. There is also evidence of other ancient cultures making use of these incredible fungi, like the Mayans, Vikings, and early Chinese. They were most likely first refined and cultivated in China around 600 CE.

It wasn’t until much later in human history that they caught on in America. The earliest recorded appearance of mushrooms in a recipe is from an 1824 cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife”. The now-famous Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup debuted in the 1930s, and nowadays you’ll find a large selection of different types of mushrooms in your local grocery store. It’s safe to say that they’ve become a modern staple in everything from simple, homestyle cooking to the finest cuisine.

The most commonly consumed type of mushroom today is the Agaricus bisporus, or button mushroom, claiming over 40 percent of mushroom sales worldwide. Most of us consider mushrooms to consist of a shaft and cap, giving them the typical button or toadstool look, which is valid given a staggering 38,000 types of fungus possess a shaft, cap and gills.

However, mushrooms grow in many different shapes and sizes and possess differing nutritional profiles - some of them are even toxic to humans. The most common poisonous fungi to appear in popular culture is the Amanita muscaria, also known as the fly agaric. This is the mushroom with the signature red cap and white spots we’ve seen in books, movies and cartoons throughout history.

While it’s true that some mushrooms are dangerous, the edible varieties are packed full of nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. They also contain vitamin D, which is important in bone and immune health, and zinc, which is especially important for growing children. In studies, mushrooms have been linked to lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and even weight loss when used as an alternative to high meat diets.

Mushrooms have been on an incredible journey throughout human history from humble foraging beginnings to the kitchens of the most globally recognizable culinary names. Mushrooms have also become an indelible part of pop-culture and will likely only grow–like a fungus– in popularity. To experience the amazing flavors and many benefits of mushrooms, specifically shiitake mushrooms, pick up a bag of Popadelics Crunchy Mushroom Chips and see for yourself!

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