Sunday, January 08, 2006

Are Mushrooms Kosher? HECK YES THEY ARE!

The annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair will be taking place on Sunday, January 15 from 10am-5pm at the Louden Nelson Center. Catch a Mushrooms 101 talk, learn how to cook mushrooms, and gain some valuable skills on finding and identifying wild mushrooms. For more information on 'shrooms in Santa Cruz, check out SC's Fungus Federation, who have a mushroom identification meeting on the first Monday of every month.

My mom always taught me to say thank you when someone does something nice for me. So who do I thank for all the amazing types of mushrooms on Earth? G-d. And, interestingly enough, the specific "thank you" to G-d for 'shrooms, set forth by our Sages of blessed memory, specifically doesn't mention fruits or vegetables (i.e. "Thank you G-d, by whose word everything comes into being"). So why do we say a different blessing on a mushroom than we would on a zucchini or a potato? In the Mishna, it says that this is the blessing to be used for things that don't grow from the earth. But wait, it sure looks to me like that's exactly how they grow. But I'm a Psyc major, what do I know about mushrooms? It obviously takes a skilled scientist or a great Rabbi to know how they actually grow. sheds some light:
"Mushrooms develop differently than plants or animals do. Plants and animals grow through cell division - to get bigger they have to produce more cells. Cell division is relatively slow and requires a lot of energy. The mushroom body also grows by cell division. However, the mushroom fruit does not grow by cell division. Just about as soon as it starts to develop, a mushroom has almost the same number of cells that the mature mushroom will have. The mushroom increases in size through cell ENLARGEMENT! This means that the cells can balloon up very rapidly. Very little energy is required, basically the cells just enlarge with water. So a mushroom can increase in size as fast as water can be pumped into its cells. Almost overnight a mushroom can go from a pin head to a large mushroom."

So there you have it. So go find some crazy good mushrooms up in the forest, and be thankful.


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