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The Past,

Present &

Future of Fungi

Image by Florian Van Duyn

  • Unsplash

Many people are gripped with mycophobia, or the fear of mushrooms. Mushrooms can be dangerous and many people have died from touching, consuming, or breathing in spores. It is true that mushrooms can be scary, but by being careful and educating yourself there is mushroom for fun! 

Mushrooms have a deep history and have been used for centuries by ancient civilizations for various purposes. Ancient civilizations have touted mushrooms for their health benefits and go as far to call them, “the Food of the Gods” and “elixir of life”. Indian tribes in Mexico, prior to the Spanish conquest, used psychedelic mushrooms in religious ceremonies due to their ability to alter thoughts, words, and perceptions. Many civilizations have also used mushrooms medicinally, such as ancient China who used fungi as the best treatment against tumors. These human interactions with mushrooms have been well documented and shown the useful interactions of human and fungi. Past civilizations have proven that mushrooms, despite being intimidating, have an abundance of uses rightfully earn them their title of, “plants of gods”. 

Mushrooms are slowly but steadily captivating society and have introduced themselves in many aspects of daily life. Climate change is on everyone’s radar and has motivated people to change how they interact with the environment. People are now moving away from meat to reduce their carbon emissions, and are now looking towards mushrooms for solutions. Mushrooms are a great replacement for resource intensive meat products as, “they provide all the essential amino acids for adult requirements; also, mushrooms have higher protein content than most vegetables” among other nutritional benefits. Quorn, a vegan food brand, uses mycoprotein, a protein derived from fungus, to replicate chicken nuggets, hamburger patties, among other American favorites. Mycoprotein and mushroom production requires little space and resources, so it is a promising replacement for animal products which require an exorbitant amount of energy and is guilt free. 

The future of fungi has mushroom for growth as there are many uses for fungi yet to be discovered. Mushrooms are making strides medically as there has been a surge of research targeted at anti-tumor mushrooms, which were once used in ancient China. There is also research currently conducted on the use of plastic eating fungi to mitigate the issue of the lifespan of plastics in bodies of water

History has shown the deep connections that human societies have with the famed mushroom. We have foraged, grew, and industrially created them to solve much of life’s ailments and problems. Human interactions with mushrooms have shown the myriad of known and potential uses, showing the socio-ecological bonds that we have forged over time. There is much about the mushroom that has yet to be discovered and mushrooms may have the potential to help us navigate the anthropocene.


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