The name ” fungi ” is a generic term for a whole kingdom of eukaryotic beings (possessors of nucleated cells) known as funghi , and that usually includes mushrooms, molds and yeasts (although more specifically to the former), since they differ of plants and animals in their biochemical structure and their modes of feeding and reproduction.
For example, members of the funghi kingdom possess cells with a biochemical wall like plants, but instead of being made of cellulose, it is made of chitin, the same compound of the insect’s shell. At the same time, they reproduce sexually and asexually , through the production of spores; they are immobile structures throughout their existences and they are fed through fermentation of organic matter in numerous and diverse possible habitats .
The biodiversity of fungi is very broad, there are edible and poisonous fungi, parasitic and wild mushrooms, usable by man, coprophiles and pyrophiles, but usually require specific conditions of moisture and nutrients to develop. That is why it is possible to find them from deserts, saline areas, exposed to ionizing radiation or in the soil of tropical humid forests.
Examples of mushrooms
- The common mushrooms ( Agaricus bisporus ) . Food mushrooms par excellence, native to Europe and North America, are part of numerous gastronomic aspects and are widely cultivated worldwide. Usually it is white, of short hypha and round hat.
- Reishi mushroom ( Ganoderma lucidum ) . Parasitic fungus of the bark of numerous tree types, distributed in tropical and temperate zones, is one of the oldest known mushrooms. They are usually of variable colors, with a kidney-lined hat and a coating of lacquer.
- Turkey tail mushroom ( Trametes versicolor ) . Extremely common and varied in its pigmentations, this fungus with the shape of a turkey tail is considered medicinal by the ancient Chinese tradition, even used as an immunoassay against cancer. It usually grows on the bark of trees, stones or wet slopes.
- Death cap ( Amanita phalloides ) . The dreaded fungus of death, deadly pigeon or green hemlock, is one of the most poisonous mushroom specimens known. Being very similar to certain edible fungi, it is usually a cause of lethal poisoning, with rapid effects on the liver and kidneys. They have a thin and long body, with wide and yellowish hat .
- Saffron milk cap ( Lactarius deliciosus ) . Also called níscalos or robellones, they are edible mushrooms very common in Spain, typical of pine forests and mixed forests. They emerge in autumn, with a brown and white body of hollowed and short foot, that when breaking secretes an orange latex. They are cooked in stews and often as a companion to meats.
- llao llao, llaullao ( Cyttaria harioti ) . Llao Llao or Indian bread, is a parasitic fungus of certain Patagonian Pampean trees (the ñire and the coihue in particular), of the South American region of Chile and Argentina. They are edible. Its appearance obstructs the savial conduits of the tree and it usually generates knots to bypass the blockage, which is a recognizable sign of its presence.
- Corn smut ( Ustilago maydis ). Edible fungus, parasite of corn, which attacks the tender ears and acquires the appearance of a grayish gill that darkens as it matures. In Mexico its consumption is considered an Aztec ancestral heritage, and numerous dishes are made from it.
- Liberty cap mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata). Measuring between 2 and 5 cm, with a white and brown flared hat as it matures, this European hallucinogenic mushroom is widely used as a psychotropic. Its effect is opposite to that of serotonin, generating an activation and extroversion that can often tend to paranoia and mania.
- Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria). A very common fungus, it has a characteristic red hat that can be mistaken for a pith and which, in its first stages, appears covered with whitish hair. It is a known hallucinogen and neurotoxic, which poisons insects that perch on its hat and thus maintains its source of organic matter.
- Penicillin fungus ( Penicillium chrysogenum ). Thanks to the accidental appearance of this fungus in the experimental results of Alexander Fleming, we have discovered the main antibiotic in history, penicillin. There is a whole family of fungi capable of secreting this medicinal substance.
- Shiitake ( Auricularia auricula-judae ) . Edible fungus that grows on the bark and dead branches of trees and has a characteristic pink color, which is why it is associated with a human auricular pavilion. It is edible and antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to it.
- Shitake ( Lentinula edodes ) . Edible mushroom very common in Asian cuisine, it is also known as “black forest mushroom” or “flower mushroom” from their respective local names. It is supposed to be native to China, where it is traditionally grown on wood or in synthetic crops. Its biggest world producer is Japan .
- Périgord black truffle ( Tuber melanosporum ) . Another variant of edible fungus, very appreciated due to its aroma and flavor. It occurs on the ground in European winters and has a blackish appearance with a warty surface. It is typical gastronomic addition for foie gras and different sauces.
- Human Candida ( Candida albicans ). This fungus is usually found in the mouth, intestine and vagina, and is related to the digestion of sugars via fermentation. But it can often become pathogenic and cause a candidiasis , a very common and perfectly curable sexually transmitted disease.
- Athlete’s foot ( Epidermophyton floccosum ). This fungus is one of the possible causes of the fungal disease of human skin (ringworm), especially when it is found, as in the case of athletes, subjected to conditions of excessive heat and humidity. They form yellowish brown or greenish black colonies.
- Velvet mushroom ( Flammulina velutipes ) . Edible mushroom with long stems and varied colors, highly appreciated in Japanese cuisine for its crunchy texture and abundance in the bark of trees.
- Bioluminescent mushroom ( Omphalotus nidiformis ). Typical of Australia and Tasmania, as well as India, this mushroom possess a white irregular nest shape, which sheds some light in the dark. They are a very striking variant although toxic and inedible.
- Scarlet copper ( Sarcoscypha coccinea ). Worldwide present fungus, which grows on sticks and branches decomposing in the soil of moist forests, typical round and pink. Its medicinal applications are known, although its edibility is still under debate by specialized authors.
- Aflatoxin ( Aspergillus flavus ). Frequently in corn and peanuts, as well as long-wet carpets, this fungus is associated with pulmonary conditions and is highly allergenic, capable of secreting lethal mycotoxins.
- Black mold ( Stachybotrys chartarum ). Highly toxic, this mold commonly appears in abandoned buildings where there is abundant organic matter, high humidity and little light presence, in addition to little air exchange. Inhalation of their spores produces poisoning and chronic cough, depending on how long and intense the exposure to their mycotoxins is.