Ethnomycology and Fungiphobia
The study of how people interact with their environments is a fascinating field in which the interplay of traditional ecological knowledge, environmental psychology, and justice are explored. Although ethnobotany is relatively well-covered ground in scientific literature, ethnomycology still quite unchartered territory. Scholarly articles on the traditional uses of fungi as food, medicine, and ceremonial usage of hallucinogenic mushrooms have focused mostly on indigenous tribes in developing nations. Fascinating accounts have been made on the usage of psychoactive Psilocybe in Thailand (Gartz, 1994), the collection of on average the 8 species of edible mushrooms by Igbo women and children in Nigeria (Akpaja,, 2003), and the mysticisms associated with the infamous Amanita muscaria in a number of Latin America, Hindu, and even Roman culture (Lowy, 1974). Considering that fungi have be used in a myriad of ways, such as fermenting alcohol, in recipes, as medicines, in many countries for such a long time, it is interesting that some cultures literally fear mushrooms. ‘Fungiphobia’ is a fascinating phenomenon that primarily plagues the United States and Great Britain. The fear of fungi primarily stems from the caution against consuming poisonous wild mushrooms, such as the Fly Agaraics. But upon further investigation we find that the death toll associated with mushroom poisoning is extremely low. In North American in 2009, there were 8 deaths caused by mushroom poisoning, 4 of those deaths were recorded in dogs (NAMA). Furthermore, of the 10,000 described species of mushrooms, roughly 400 species are poisonous, and of those, only 20 are common! Thus the consumption of poisonous mushrooms could be easily avoided with increased knowledge of mushroom identification. A number of European countries like Italy and France are quite ‘fungiphillic’ and appreciates a wide diversity of wild collected mushrooms in cooking. In the U.S. commercial production of mushrooms utilizes very few species. In fact, the three most highly produced mushrooms are all varieties of the same species, Agaricus bisporus, the button mushroom, AKA portabella and crimini. It is clear that a number of bioculutral services could be gained by setting aside our fungiphobia and delving embracing ethnomycology, if only to spice up our meals.
9/17/2013 08:25:10 pm
There are so many micro organisms in the world that actually helps that mankind and the entire world. Most of us are not aware of these. It is good to know about ethnomycology and fungiphobia and it is a new knowledge for me.
3/22/2014 04:29:56 am
As a term to describe traditional Anglo folk pattern (compared with mycophilic cultures), 'fungiphobia' is reasonable.
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