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Monday, April 6, 2015


Feria de Hongos, Guajimoloyas
Expediciones Sierra Norte
OCast fongo, MEng funges, mosserouns, musseruns, mosserouns florys, Eng, fungus, mushrooms. As seen Villena’s section on vegetables, fungi were first classified with them. Their composition is similar in that they are nine parts water, contain vegetable protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibers and have a low calorie content. The differences between vegetables and fungi are that the latter are produced by microscopic spores, not seeds and they do not have chlorophyll. The spores can be multicellular or unicellular, like yeast (Saccharomyces cerviseae). Some cells can be multinuclear but most have only one nucleus. The cell walls contain carbohydrate chitin. Fungi are heterotrophic, i.e. they cannot produce their own nutrition as autotrophic plants can. They receive all the nutrients they need from live or dead organic matter in their growing medium. They do this by secreting digestive enzymes into the matter and then absorb the result, small food molecules.

According to the feeding method, fungi can be: symbiotic, saprophytic and/or parasitic. Now they are classified separately into four taxonomic divisions: Zygomycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Deuteromycota. Classification is based on the nature of their reproductive spores and their hypae, multicellular filaments. Fungi provide food for humans such as baking and brewing yeast, mushrooms, morels and truffles. Further, fungal colonies give cheeses such as Stilton, Cabrales and Gorgonzol their special flavors.

Fungi are essential in the pharmaceutical industry. The first antibiotic made came from Penicillium fungi. That is the good news. The bad is that they include parasites which kill millions of dollars of crops annually.

Washing Mushrooms
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Zygomycetes consist of almost 1,000 species including common bread molds. They feed on dead or decaying plants and animals. They are multinucleate and their reproduction is asexual. Ascomycota consist of over 30,000 species. They include unicellular yeast and multicellular fungi.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a member of this category is brewer’s and baking yeast as well as sac fungi. Some sac fungi are used also in wine making. Others are used to make antibiotics. Claviceps purpurea another sac fungi cause ergot see ergotismo. Still others decompose and recycle organic material.

Basidiomycetes include puffballs, toadstools, truffles and mushrooms. The latter sexually reproduce through basidia, club shaped spores, lining the gills on the mushroom cap. Basidiospores, formed on the basidia, cause this. Agaricus campestris, wild mushrooms, are found in this category as well as the most poisonous mushroom Amanita phalloides. Other members are mushrooms used in South and Central American religious rituals containing hallucinogenic properties like psilocybin and crop parasites such as smut and rusts. Perhaps the fairys’ mushroom houses in old England’s forests belong in this category, see cagarria, criadillas de tierra, setas and trufas.

Deuteromycota, “imperfect fungi” (meaning lack of knowledge concerning their life cycles) can have sexual, asexual and unknown sexual stages. It is estimated that there are more than one million species of fungi on the planet but only 70,000 of them have been described by experts.

Pot Steaming with Mushrooms
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Although Villena does describe how to cut mushrooms, he labels them as unhealthy, especially the stem. Avenzoar was more verbose saying they are much worse than truffles, for they when totally digested they generate a chyme that is a little noxious. There is nothing good in those that grow spontaneously in manure. They can cause death by poison or asphyxiation for which Avenzoar did not recommend eating them. A 13th C Latin treatise supports Avenzoar’s conclusions stating that fungi are actually much worse than truffles and some species constrict the throat causing death.

Nobility and kings did not snuff at fungi. Special dishes of mushroom pasties, soups, sauces and salads were made for banquets. Richard II of England’s cook knew a variety of edible mushrooms. For the king’s coronation, he prepared them with leeks as a side dish. This is said to be “a culinary marriage made in heaven.”

Today it is known that fungi, with other microorganisms and bacteria make trophic stabilization of the forest possible. Not only do they serve as human food but also they are becoming increasingly popular for their anti-cancer properties and for their copper, manganese, iron, Vitamin B complex, zinc and selenium content, which are essential in the antibiotic industry. They are consumed to prevent breast and colon cancer, heart attacks, strokes, age related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, arthrosclerosis and to relieve stress, hypertension, cholesterol, migraine headaches, colds, ear infections, arthritis and asthma.

[Curye. 1985:190:202; ES: Benítez. May 24, 04; ES: Farabee. Jul 2, 01; ES: Lord. Champiñón. Dec 3, 12; ES: “Mushrooms.” Sep 30, 04; ES: Organista. Jul 28, 04; ES: Volk. Apr 01; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:91 Sass. 1975:76-77; and Villena/Calero. 2002:24a:39b:40b]



6 sprigs of parsley
Mushrooms to Melt in Your Mouth
Warm or Cold
Photo by: Lord-Williams 
6 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tsp dried and ground cilantro
1 tsp mixed spices
1 c vinegar
1 lb mushrooms
olive oil for frying
1 onion


Chop parsley and cilantro in a mortar.  For every few sprigs of parsley add 1 tsp cilantro or coriander. Add 1-1 ½ tsp mixed spices (which Nola calls “common sauce”)[2] and dilute this with 1 c vinegar. Put this in an earthenware dish with mushrooms that have been washed, sliced and lightly sautéed in a frying pan with oil. Mix all well and add salt to taste.

Heat this and boil gently until the vinegar has been reduced. The recipe does not indicate but that this mixture should be left to sit for a few hours but the title does insinuate this. Taste to see if more water needs to be added as the vinegar can be quite strong.

    Si vols ffer salsa a bolets, perbul-los bé, e quant seran perbullits prem los e soffrig-los ab holi. E aprés[2] ffes tal salsa: Ages sebes e jurvert e saliandre[3] e piqua-ho[4] e destrempa-ho ab espícies[5] e ab vinagra e ab un poc de gras[6] E puys ffes trosos de bolets; e quant seran soffregits,;[7] mit-los en aquesta salsa. Ho·ls dónes cuyts en brases abs al e ab holi.

[1] Correspon a V, núm 17 (“salsa de boletes”).
[2] perbul .  .  .  .aprés: V “perbullits e premuts e sosenguats ab oli”
[3]  saliandre, ‘celiandre’ (“Coriandrum sativum L”).
[4] e saliandre . . . . ho:  “vinagre, espécies”.
[5] ab espícies manca en V.
[6] gras; V “aygua”, lliçó millor.
[7] E puys . . .  soffregits: V “fé peçes d’elle, que le sosengues, ho-n dóna ab sosengua, e puys”.

[1] This is the first mushroom sauce to appear in Iberian cookery manuals. For a different version of this recipe see blog titled cagarria published June 20, 2012.
[2] As seen in the blog titled criba, published September 9, 2013, Nola’s recipe consists of a mixture of 60 gr/2 oz cinnamon, 40 gr/1.4 oz cloves, 20 gr/0.7 oz ginger, 20 gr/0.7 oz pepper, 3.75gr /0.13 oz coriander, and 3.75 gr/0.13 oz saffron.

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