The Western world collects and consumes at least 350 varieties of edible mushrooms, which is worth billions of pounds to the global economy, the new State of the World’s Fungi report by Kew Gardens states.
Edible species of mushrooms come from just 18 orders of fungi, which make up a small fraction of all fungus.
The types of cultivated mushrooms most consumed include brittlegills, milkcaps, chanterelles, agarics and boletes. All of these mushrooms depend on dead organic matter to grow, which makes them easier to farm in large quantities.
Wide and wonderful variety
However, there is also a wide and wonderful variety of wild mushrooms collected that can’t be cultivated, due to their complex behaviours and nutritional needs. Such mushrooms may depend on living plants, and other factors to grow.
- £32bn – global value of edible fungi
- 2,000 – news species discovered annually
- 350 – varieties collected and consumed
- 1960s – when farmed mushrooms became big
- 75% – of global mushroom output is from China
- 25m – the number of jobs dependant on China’s mushroom industry
- 38.42m – tonnes of mushrooms China produces a year
While we see more types of mushrooms these days, the humble button mushroom was not cultivated on a large scale until the 1960s.
Yet, the mushrooms we consume are not just seen on our plates, they are also used in many other aspects of food and drink.
“Fungi also play a pivotal role in the production of food and drinks,” said the report. “Brewer’s or baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, underpins almost all bread and alcoholic drink production and is a key ingredient in Marmite and Vegemite.
“The meat substitute Quorn is also manufactured using a fungus (Fusarium venenatum), in carefully controlled fermentation vessels that yield 300 kg of the fungus per hour.
‘Some types of cheese’
“Fungi are also essential to the production of some types of cheese, with moulds such as Penicillium camemberti and P. roqueforti used to ripen and give flavour to the cheese.”
China, however, is the largest producer of edible mushrooms in the world, producing 38.42m tonnes of mushrooms a year.
The country accounts for 75% of global edible mushroom output and its fungi industry gives work to more than 25m people, contributing billions of pounds to the economy.
Jiang Sunan, minister counsellor for science and technology at the Chinese Embassy, said: “China is rich in fungal resources. By unlocking the secrets of this relatively untapped area, it will truly bring benefits to mankind.”