A new Netflix documentary is causing quite a buzz around R&R Cultivation’s headquarters. Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us is an in-depth look into not only mushrooms but also the mycelium that creates them. This eye-opening program explains how fungi shape our entire planet. Many viewers will be surprised to learn about the fascinating underground world of mycelium and how it is being used to change the world in brand new ways. Many of us are used to seeing mushrooms on the grocery store shelf, but we don’t often consider how they grow in the wild. Fantastic Fungi offers a new perspective.
The Connectedness of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are often associated with breaking down and decay, which some find unsettling. But, as the documentary shows, it’s important to remember mushrooms also give life. In fact, fungi are the building blocks for all life on Earth. Mycelium fossils found in South Africa have been dated to 2.4 billion years ago, which makes them the oldest recorded multicellular organisms. This fungi paved the way for plants and animals to develop into who we are today.
There are over 1.5 million species of fungi, but only about 20,000 produce mushrooms. The diversity of mushrooms around the world is astounding; the documentary even shows bioluminescent mushrooms that light up the night! Still, many mushrooms tend to blend in with the earthy colors of the forest and are easily overlooked.
“A really important difference between plants and fungi is that plants have evolved to catch your eye. [Mushrooms] are doing their own thing, and a lot of them are hiding,” says author Michael Pollan. He also mentions the powerful idea that an amateur mushroom hunter or food critic can be educated on mushrooms and their flavors without a formal education – as long as they’re willing to seek out the camouflaged varieties.
During the documentary we join a group of wild mushroom hunters who are on a mission to find and eat a wide variety of mushrooms so they can enjoy their intricate differences in flavor. But you don’t have to go tromping through the woods to find your meals; a plethora of delicious mushrooms can also be found at local grocery stores and co-ops. Many of us at R&R Cultivation have come to enjoy the diverse flavors of gourmet mushrooms through our own enjoyment; we know you don’t have to be an academic who has studied mushrooms to enjoy them!
Mycelium and Mushrooms As Food
It’s sometimes difficult to classify mushrooms because they simply don’t compare to other produce. Food journalist Eugenia Bone says, “Mushrooms are not like vegetables, and they’re not like animals. But it’s somewhere in between. The fungus is its own kingdom altogether.” This becomes clear when we look at the nutrients and possible health benefits mushrooms provide. They are in a class all their own because of how they benefit the human body and how they benefit other plants and animals in the wild.
Fungi and fungal yeasts are important to the fermentation process, which is used to make many of our favorite foods and vegetables: bread, cheeses, chocolate, beers, bourbon, soy sauce, and the list goes on. Mushrooms are also important to urban farms, especially in food deserts, because they grow quickly and provide great nutrients. And we can’t forget the many professional chefs and amateur mushroom connoisseurs who appreciate their punchy umami and depth of flavor. We find it so magical that mushrooms can be eaten on their own, but their spores and mycelium can also be used to create rich and delicious foods!
If a viewer takes one lesson away from Fantastic Fungi, we hope it’s this: fungi isn’t going anywhere. Mushrooms are an incredibly resilient food source and are integral to the success of our ecosystem. However, we should all do our part to conserve individual species of mushrooms, especially the ones we love to eat. R&R Cultivation’s organic, gourmet mushrooms offer the perfect solution for a mushroom lover who wants to respect these powerful species in nature. We grow many varieties of mushrooms right here in our grow lab in New Hope, MN for customers to enjoy without the guilt that comes with eating some wild mushrooms.
Have you watched Fantastic Fungi yet? What did you think? Our team gives the documentary two thumbs up!