MAGIC mush­rooms

mailife - - Food - Words and pho­tos by LANCE SEETO

If you think this story is about the psy­chotropic fun­gus that peo­ple have been trip­ping to since pos­si­bly 9000 BCE, you’d be sort of right. Al­though the mush­rooms we’re go­ing to talk about don’t con­tain the psy­che­delic-caus­ing chem­i­cal psilo­cy­bin, this is a story of an­other species of magic mush­room; cul­ti­vated Asian mush­rooms. Why are they magic? They are one of the most medic­i­nal gifts of food and they’re now serv­ing on the menus of many of Fiji’s tourist re­sorts. With a rich agri­cul­tural his­tory of grow­ing tea, cot­ton, sug­ar­cane, kava and root veg­eta­bles, Fiji is now grow­ing ex­otic fruits and veg­eta­bles that are slowly mak­ing their way into re­sorts and restau­rants. Their im­por­tance to the lo­cal econ­omy is not only pro­vid­ing a fast cash crop, but Fiji’s farm­ers are help­ing to re­solve one of the big­gest heath is­sues in the South Pa­cific – non com­mu­ni­ca­ble diseases such as heart dis­ease and di­a­betes. Un­til re­cently, the only mush­rooms you would get in a Fi­jian eatery came from a tin, re­hy­drated from a packet or im­ported from a farm some­where in Aus­tralia or New Zealand. The com­mon but­ton mush­room needs a colder, damp cli­mate but Asian mush­rooms such as oys­ter, enoki and shi­itake can be cul­ti­vated in a plas­tic jar with grass or other fi­brous sub­strates to pro­duce an or­ganic fungi that is so good for you. Asian strains of mush­rooms are medic­i­nal be­cause they are es­pe­cially good for our health, a fact steeped in Chi­nese tra­di­tional medicine for thou­sands of years. They have anti-

LANCE SEETO is an award-win­ning in­ter­na­tional food writer, au­thor, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and ex­ec­u­tive chef based on Mana Is­land Fiji. Fol­low his culi­nary ad­ven­tures in Fiji at www.lance­ Sim­ple vege­tar­ian of po­lenta with grilled mush­rooms

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