In recent times, I often wonder how long this special delicacy “the Mushroom” has been in existence, how it was discovered and who discovered it. Research shows that food historians tells us that prehistoric people most likely consumed mushrooms, both poisonous and edible. Let’s take a little trip back in time to discover the history and origins of the wonderful and delectable mushroom.
In the early Roman times, fungi was not just popular in Europe, but it was also consumed centuries ago in the Middle and South America. These fungi were seen as special meals and mysterious and were usually used in age – long rituals. As at this time, there was no known name as to what these fungi should be called.
“Mushrooms and other large varieties of fungus have is believed to be eaten since human existence, this is as a result of traces of puffballs seen in the prehistoric lake settlements of Germans, Switzerland and Austria but not by everyone and not everywhere. The hardest mushroom to b found and finest mushrooms, like the truffle and the oronge, was highly valued in classical Greece and Rome, and as such have always been expensive. Some of the mushrooms have been successfully cultivated for a long time. In classical times both Greeks and Romans grew the small Agrocybe aegerita on slices of a poplar trunk. The Chinese and Japanese may have been growing shiitake on rotting logs for even longer. The modern European cultivation of mushroom is traced back to 1600, when the French agriculturist Olivier de Serres suggested a method in his work Le Theatre d’agriculture des champs. In 1678 another Frenchman, the botanist Merchant, demonstrated to the Academie des Sciences how mushrooms could be grown in a controlled way by transplanting their mycelia (these are filaments that spreads through the soil underneath mushroom them like fine roots).”
Evidence showed that the prehistoric use of mushrooms. However, it is difficult to ascertain the exact place and time mushroom was first discovered, there is evidence in the form of stone paintings that Saharan aboriginal tribes of North Africa might have started using these mushrooms from around 9000 BC. Similarly, rock paintings in Spain created about 6000 years ago reveals that the mushroom specie Psilocybe hispanica was used during certain rituals near Villar del Humo. It is very okay to say that mushroom use by prehistoric cultures began even before that time, even though we do not have a clear evidence to suggest so yet.
The mushroom derived its name from two French words – Fungi and Molds. The history of mushroom could be traced back to the existence of man on planet earth. Over the years, our forefathers made use of mushrooms that could be found in the fields and forest. Mushrooms are said to be the “plants of immortality” by the Egyptians. The delicious flavor intrigued the Pharaoh’s of Egypt so much that they proclaimed that mushrooms are considered as food meant for the gods as in Egyptian and ancient Aztecs practices where mushrooms were specifically served to royalty as no common man was even allowed to come in contact with it talk more of eating it. Due to this practice, they assured themselves the entire supply of mushrooms. These records all concerns the wild mushroom.
However’ this practice came to a halt in the early seventeenth when a melon grower near Paris discovered mushrooms growing on his growth fertilizer. He then decided to commercially cultivate this newly found produce and he introduced it to the Parisian restaurant. The mushroom was then called the “Parisian mushroom”. As times passed, this French melon grower then discovered that the caves had just the right environment for cultivating mushrooms, after which the cultivation of mushroom began in large-scale and developed in the caves around Paris
Civilization all over the world, including Russia, China, Greece, Mexico and Latin America, mushroom ritual were practiced. Many had the believe that mushrooms had properties that could produce super human strength, help in finding lost objects and lead the soul to the realms of the gods.
Fungi was likely cultivated in large quantities the first time around the year 600 in Asia. In Europe, mushrooms was the first fungi to be cultivated there and it was introduced in the 17th century. Mushrooms were introduced into the Netherlands for the first time at the beginning of the 19th century, but it was not be until after the 1900s that they were cultivated on a large-scale in the marl mines in Limburg. Over the years, mushroom was still very distinct and only available to the rich. Ever since then, better and more effective methods have been developed and there has been a huge increase in the cultivation of mushroom. After 1950, the Dutch consumer became more acquainted with the mushroom. In the meantime, there are various parts in the Netherlands that specialize in mushroom cultivation, especially in south of the great rivers. The method Dutch uses in cultivating mushroom is especially known for the strict control it keeps on the cultivation.
In the last 50 years, the Netherlands has grown into the largest mushroom production country within the European Union, with an annual production of 270 million kilograms and more than 10,000 jobs. Next to China and the United States, the Netherlands holds third place in the market. China is in first place with 70% of the world’s production. Yearly, millions of tons of mushrooms are cultivated in the world.
Brief summary of when an how mushrooms came into existence
- The first time mushroom was discovered by a melon grower in the vicinity of Paris by sprinkling the waste from melon crops with leachate from ripe mushrooms
- This is when control of “edible fungi” was first cultivated in the vegetable garden.
- Cultivation of mushroom in the underground stone quarries, where the climate ic conducive for continuous mushroom cultivation.
- Cultivation of mushroom on a country estate near Haarlem.
- Cultivation of mushroom fluweelgroten (velvet caves) in Valkenburg and in the St. Pietersberg caves near Maastricht.
- Mushroom cultivation was first scientifically studied in the Research Station in Netherlands.
- Laboratory guide for mushroom culture under the supervision of great mushroom pioneers.
- The first aboveground mushroom nurseries was constructed with several construction areas. The trays were made of concrete.
- The CNC , a Dutch Cooperative Growers Mushroom Association in Mook was established. This association instigated the founding of the Research Station for Mushroom Cultivation in 1957.
- Cultivation in wooden boxes in tray
- Cultivation in wooden beds on metal trays.
- Cultivation of mushrooms in fully metal trays, with the mechanisation of removing and inserting mushroom compost.
- Introduction of MyChampi