by Nina Zippay
The multifaceted mushroom. It knows many tricks. And tastes good, too.
I’m not the first person to imbibe on mushrooms for medicinal use. And if the medical community possesses a modicum of good sense, I won’t be the last. Foraging for fungi for health and wellness was a time-honored tradition among certain Native American tribes. They knew more than most about the healing properties found in these cute little caps of the fungi kingdom. Eastern cultures were equally savvy. Over 200 species of mushrooms possessing medicinal properties have been identified in traditional Chinese medicine practice.
Best of all, they look so cool. Take this Lion’s Mane mushroom I found at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this past Sunday.
Don't be fooled by its cute, fuzzy, almost cuddly appearance. It's serious business, medicinally speaking. Lion's Mane has been used in traditional healing practices in China and Japan for hundreds of years, most often used to aid in digestion, improve cognitive function and memory loss, improve reflexes, and repair nerve damage. Western science is now taking a closer look at Lion’s Mane most recently intrigued with its potential neuro-protective and neuro-regenerative effects. Other studies support the idea that it may help alleviate depression and anxiety. For example, in a small study published in Biomedical Research in 2010, 30 menopausal women consumed cookies containing either lion's mane or a placebo every day for four weeks. Researchers observed that members of the lion's mane group were less irritable and anxious and had less difficulty concentrating than members of the placebo group.
Is such data conclusive? No. Rarely is it ever, especially when it comes to preventive medicine. For now, we are left to trust the ancients, waiting for Western science to catch up.
But How Does It Taste?
Where I come from, we like to eat things not only because they’re good for you but because they taste good, too. Lion’s mane does not disappoint in this regard.
Cooked until crispy around the edges with garlic and olive oil, I threw in some chopped kale and sun-dried tomatoes in the end for good measure. Then I sprinkled some grated Parmesan cheese on top.
I've only just had my first Lion's Mane mushroom a couple of hours ago. I don't think it's kicked in. But a tasty lunch, cheaper than Prozac, always makes me happy.
Urban foraging notes: As referenced above, I found Lion’s Mane mushrooms at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market through a vendor named LAFungHi (http://www.lafunghi.com/). They frequent the bigger farmer’s markets in and around Los Angeles and list their locations on the website.