Mushrooms never cease to amaze. The kingdom of fungi is vast and bewildering. Science is always trying to catch up with its mysteries. Here are our 15 favorite facts about mushrooms that are sure you shock you.
They contain some of the same chemicals that lobsters and crabs have in their shells.
The chemical called chitin is the main component of the exoskeletons of most insects and in the shells of crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster, and crabs. Interestingly enough, chitin also plays a key role in mushroom morphogenesis. Chitlin is also being studied for its potential antibacterial properties.
They are closer to humans than plants.
Although mushrooms are in a kingdom of their own, their DNA composition makes them more similar to humans than to plants. Some scientists say we share 50% of our DNA with fungi!
Like humans, when mushrooms sit in the sun they produce vitamin D. Plants, on the other hand, use chlorophyll for their food. Mushrooms’ inability to create their own food through photosynthesis makes them more like animals and humans than plants.
Fungi were used to create the alcoholic drink mead some thousands of years ago.
Mead, which is an alcoholic beverage that's made by fermenting honey with water, has been around for centuries. One of the main ingredients in mead is yeast, which is a type of fungi.
Yeast can survive for thousands of years. Reasearchrs have been able to use thousand-year-old yeast strains that were found in leftover ancient fermentation vessels. These vessels have been found across the world.
There is a mushroom that’s known as one of the most deadly organisms on earth.
The death cap (Amanita phalloides) mushroom is a strikingly beautiful mushroom that is also responsible for the most human deaths by mushroom ingestion. Death camp mushrooms produce toxic amatoxins, which our digestive systems simply cannot eliminate. Due to modern science, the chances of dying from eating a death cap mushroom has been lowered significantly, however, those who have been affected by them say the experience is extremely painful
They are an amazing meat substitution.
Atlast Food Co. is changing the way we see meat. Using mushroom mycelium, scientists have been able to create a super realistic-looking and tasting product that even meat-eaters would enjoy. The coolest part about Atlast’s meat substitutes? They’re both delicious and sustainable.
We can eat over 614 species of mushrooms.
The most popular fungi we consume are the button, portobello, cremini, oyster, chanterelle, and porcini mushrooms. Mushrooms are so popular that their global market share was valued at 45.8 billion USD in 2020. Every year scientists discover more species of mushrooms, but to date, we know that we can eat over 614 species of fungi.
Some mushrooms sell for thousands of dollars.
Some mushrooms sell for exorbitant amounts of money. The most expensive mushroom is the yartsa gunbu, which can sell for upwards of $50,000 a pound. The second most expensive mushroom, which is much more common, is the European white truffle, which can sell for as much as $3,600 a pound.
Mycelium is under your feet.
As much as 80% of the ground under our feet is made up of mycelium. Mycologist Paul Stamets has calculated that each step you take affects over 300 miles of mycelium highways!
The largest organism on earth is a fungus.
In 1998, the fungus Armillaria ostoyae was found to be the largest organism in the world. These particular fungi can grow mycelium up to thousands of acres long and can weigh several tons in weight.
Magic mushrooms may help with anxiety and depression.
Scientists have been researching the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on the brain. In clinical trials, psychedelic mushrooms have been shown to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression when taken over time.
Other nonpsychoactive mushrooms have also been linked to mental clarity and cognitive wellness and can be taken regularly and legally in capsule or powder form.
There are 216 discovered psychedelic mushrooms and counting.
When people speak about psychedelic mushrooms, they most often are referring to Psilocybe cubensis, the most cultivated hallucinogenic mushroom in the world. However, they aren’t the only trippy mushroom that our earth grows!
There are actually 216 psychedelic mushrooms that have been discovered to date. The main way these psychedelic shrooms are differentiated from one another is by the levels of psilocybin – the psychedelic effect causing component - that they contain.
Fungi can take waste and turn it into bioethanol.
A form of modified yeast has been shown to be able to break down substances, such as dead grass and plants, and create ethanol. This super-efficient and simple process could lead to ethanol competing with gasoline in future fuel markets.
Mushroom spores are made of the hardest natural material on earth.
Sporopollenin is one of the most chemically inert biological polymers and it is the main component of mushroom spores. Sporopollenin is so stable that it can survive in the depths of space.
Mushroom mycelium can be used to make “leather”.
Similar to the way at AtLast has figured out to use mycelium to make meat substitutes, scientists have also been able to use mycelium molds to create vegan leather. Big names in the fashion industry, such as Stella McCartney, have started using this vegan leather in their newest runway garments.
There are thousands of mysterious fungi species all around us.
Fungi is everywhere. It’s all around us, it’s on us, and even inside of us. Most fungi are just completely invisible to the naked eye. Because of their mysterious nature, scientists project that of the estimated 3.8 billion fungi in the world we have only discovered 10%.