The Impending Myco-Cultural Revolution, Part 3
The vast fungal kingdom occupies the evolutionary continuum between the botanical and the animal kingdoms. Fungi have special relationships with both plants and animals.
Mycorrhizal fungi coevolved with plants from the ocean to land and became dominant terrestrial living organisms. The mutually beneficial relationship between plants and mushrooms involve very intricate interactions. Plants provide mycorrhizal fungi with an energy source of sugars and the mycelia of the fungi in turn, reach down deep into the soil and retrieve valuable trace minerals, which are essential nutrients to the plants. In time of drought, the mycelia also provide precious water to the plants to help sustain them through occasional dry spell.
The saprophytic fungi feed on dead organic material mostly from the plant kingdom as a source of lignocellulosic compound. The debris from the botanical kingdom would suffocate the earth if not for the fungal kingdom helping to recycle the complex tissues of plants. The carbon cycle of life involves the sequestration of carbon dioxide in the air by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Fungi evolved with the unique ability to produce potent digestive enzymes to breakdown the strong lignin and cellulose in plants and return simple carbons and minerals into the soil to continue the carbon cycle. Fungi are the ultimate recyclers of nature.
Most herbivores require large digestive tracts to effectively process the complex plant materials with the help of bacteria and fungi in their rumens. Humans learned long ago to use fire to cook food and ingest nutrients more efficiently and in the process, reduce the size of their digestive organ, along with the commensurate growth of their brains, they became the most potent predators on earth today.
We humans walk around with only 10% of human genes in our bodies, the other 90% of genes come from the microbes inhabiting our bodies. The microbiomes in us are made up mostly bacteria, fungi and the scantily investigated archaea, a kingdom of single cell organisms. Our health is inexplicably dependent on a collection of microbes along with a functional network of nerve cells. A well-balanced diet, a good daily exercise regimen, a positive outlook and a curious mind will keep us in the best state of health.
The inclusion of mushrooms in our daily diet would contribute greatly to our health. Mushroom consumption is a cultural event. People living in areas abundant with wild mushrooms tend to include mushrooms in their diet. Eastern Europeans and Asians consume quite a variety of mushrooms regularly while mushrooms are absent in the diet of a large portion of people on earth. In coining the phrase “myco-cultural revolution,” we strive to contribute in the production of mushrooms and to influence more people to include mushrooms in their daily diet. I will expand on the benefit of mushroom consumption in my next installation.