History and Origins

Loved by chefs and consumers, mushrooms (from the Latin Fungi) are heterotrophic organisms, that is, they find their nourishment in the external environment and absorb it through their walls. They probably derive from algae, but over the course of evolution they have lost the ability to feed themselves.From ethnomycology (the historical and sociological study of the impact of mushrooms) we have learned that mushrooms not only had great importance for food purposes, but also for pharmaceutical purposes.

Today we know that they are capable of producing very useful molecules for the creation of antibiotics and anticancer drugs and for lowering cholesterol. What if we told you that their usefulness was already known 5300 years ago? The mummy found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991, “Oetzi”, had with it the remains of two types of mushrooms famous for their antibiotic and vermifuge properties.

Development and Classification

Over 3 million species. This is the estimate of the diversity of fungi, although those known are around 700,000.
The initial scientific classification was that of Linnaeus, who cataloged them as plants, and only in 1800 and 1900 did they acquire the “kingdom” classification. However, studies are still underway for a more precise cataloguing.

In the meantime… Why not focus on the most popular species in the kitchen? Porcini, mushrooms, pleurotus, champignons, pioppini, chiodini, cockerels, ovoli, chanterelles… Here are some names that make your mouth water.

Tradition and Curiosity

Legend has it that the Greek hero Perseus, tired after a long journey, finally managed to drink some water from the cap of a mushroom: there he decided to found a new city, Mycenae (μύκης, mykes” is the Greek term for fungus).The Mycenaean civilisation, one of the most important and flourishing in history, would therefore take its origins from the mushroom, a symbol of life and divinity in the Greek world. Even Pliny the Elder, in his Naturalis Historia, talks about the goodness of mushrooms way back in 78 AD, warning against the consumption of one type in particular (the boleto). With this, it is said, Agrippina poisoned the emperor Tiberius Claudius in favour of her son Nero.

Did you know that some mushrooms are even luminous? Around 80 species are able to glow in the dark thanks to biological pigments that produce oxyluciferin, a luminescent substance.

Porcini mushrooms, on the other hand like other delicious mushrooms from champignons to chanterelles, shine with their aroma and goodness: they are perfect for enhancing the flavour of risottos and pasta, not to mention when they are sautéed or grilled to accompany meats and unforgettable second courses.