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Mushrooms are one of those glories of nature; free food that goes back to our hunter-gatherer days, and so entrenched in human nutrition that there is even a special word for it: mycophagy, the act of consuming mushrooms.  Edible varieties have been identified on archaeological sites in Chile as old as 13,000 years; the Chinese ate them as well as used them for medicine, and the ancient Greeks and Romans were connoisseurs.  One Roman Emperor, Claudius, was even murdered by them!

In dried form they keep well, contributing usefully to the winter larder, and there are thousands of species worldwide, though care must always be taken, when collecting in the wild, to make the correct identification and prevent poisoning accidents. From the hallucinogenic Psilocybin or magic mushroom, to the positively lethal Amanita or death cap, mushrooms can carry as many potential problems in their harmless-looking little caps as natural benefits!

On the plus side, mushrooms are a rich source of iron, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and the B complex vitamins, and have a hefty content of the natural antioxidants, selenium and ergothioneine, thus making them a valuable contributor to a vegetarian diet and promoting good protection from cell damage by oxidation.




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