Miriam Sari1 and Reinhard Hambitzer1
Mushrooms have a long history in culinary and medicinal usage. More than a million species supposedly exist . However, only several thousand have been specified and most of the wild species have not yet been investigated. The latter may represent a largely unexplored source of new powerful products with nutritious, sensory and pharmaceutical properties.
Fungi and fungus-like organisms form their own domaine (regnum) in the biological science as plants and animals do . The fungus is formed by the mycelium, a fine network of hyphae, which are composed of linear-lined cells and represent the basic organization unit of the fungus. Hyphae penetrate organic substrates and secrete enzymes to digest complex organic molecules like cellulose and lignin. The soluble products of this extracellular digestion process are absorbed by the hyphae  and metabolized as nutrients. Due to this heterotrophic carbon metabolism, organic residues of the agricultural production can be reused as substrates in mushroom cultures like composts based on straw, poultry manure or horse manure.
Mushroom Production and Markets
In contrast to their vast presence in nature, only a small number of mushroom species can be cultivated. Among these, the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) (fig. 1 shows the brown variety which has become quiet popular over the last years) dominates the world production with more than 90 %, followed by Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster mushroom (Pleurotus spp). The worldwide production in 2005 ranged about 3.5 million tons but has almost tripled till the year 2013 (FAOSTAT statistics). China has become the largest producer for white Agaricus mushroom with 2.18 million tons per year, followed by USA and Poland [4-7]. About 30 million people work in the mushroom business.
Potential as Functional Ingredients with Respect to Topic Food Trends
Their high potential as source of food ingredients with sensory and technological properties makes mushrooms most interesting for food industrial purposes.
Mushroom-instant products like mushroom soups contain mushroom components either as
heat dried (fig. 2) or freeze dried pieces or powder or
juice concentrates or
Typical recipes of instant products contain 3 to 10 % of these compounds to yield sensory satisfying mushroom taste and smell.
Top consumer trends yield interesting chances for product innovations.
Thus, the “clean label”-concept may boost natural mushroom based flavor enhancers, salt substitutes or “umami”-flavour in order to substitute artificial additives [8,9].
Modern consumers and food retailers demand more “sustainability”, what might offer a market chance for flavoring and concentrates that have been isolated from side chain products like cut offs or stipecuts remaining in the substrate after harvesting in order to prevent waste.
The vegetarian or vegan trend creates new recipes. Complete or partial substitution of meat by mushroom compounds in meat-containing products, like burgers , assure satisfying sensory results.
The out-of-home food consumption has been continuously increasing for decades. However, the market is very competitive and consequently the catering and food service business demands high quality products with economic as well as sensory advantages. Specifically treated mushroom slices for pizza toppings stand for an innovative example. These products are characterized by reduced drip losses and better consistency, thus delivering economical as well as sensory benefits.
Innovative bags and pouches substitute cans and avoid artificial additives in mushroom products .
Potential in Biotechnology
The mycelia of mushrooms can be cultivated in submerse cultures and scaled up in bioreactors. This technique enables a wide range of technical applications, e.g. production of
cellulose via delignification of wood products by Lentinula edodes or by Trametes versicolor ,
organic acids (like fumaric acid or citric acid) or
antibiotic substances .
Potential as Nutrient Source
Mushrooms are an excellent food source and addition to any diet or menu. Edible mushrooms come in a range of shapes, sizes, textures, colors, flavors, scents, and densities . The dry matter content is very low in mushrooms (approximately 10 %). Furthermore, high insoluble fiber contents (chitin and other polysaccharides) (fig. 3) present nutritional benefits. Low lipids and glycogen contents result in low energy values . With an average caloric value of 125 kJ (30 kcal/ 100 g fresh weight), mushrooms are a beneficial source for a healthy diet . Mushrooms have higher protein contents than most vegetables and provide all essential amino acids for adult requirements [17,18]. The content of vitamins and minerals in mushrooms is comparable to common vegetables or even higher. They are good sources of iron, selenium and potassium  and present a valuable source of Vitamin D2. In fact, mushrooms are the only substantial vegetarian source of vitamin D2. Ergosterol, as a natural component of the fungi cell wall, is converted to Vitamin D2 by UV-exposure. Vitamin-D2-enriched mushrooms offer a healthy solution for Vitamin D2 supplementation in the future .
Potential of Bioactive Mushroom Ingredients
Due to their unique sensory properties, as well as nutritional values and health benefits, mushrooms have become the focus of international research in recent years. Next to essential nutrients, a great variety of bioactive compounds are supposed to be beneficial to health. Scientific studies focus on phenolic substances, sterols, alkaloids, lactones, terpenes and ceramides, bioactive polysaccharides and polysaccharide-protein complexes . Specific β-glucans were shown to have bioactive properties such as immune-modulating, antiviral, antitumor and hepatoprotective effects . Extracts (dried, powdered or liquid) are available as dietary supplements or natural ingredients.
Although many questions on the physiological action principles of the observed health benefits have not been answered yet, recent scientific results are highly promising and the presence of mushroom based innovations in the marked demonstrate the state of the art. To sum up, mushrooms are a truly interesting source of new ideas and solutions for topics and future challenges in the food and health industries.
1Competence Center for Mycology and Environmental Studies (KAMU), Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, Mönchengladbach, Germany
Competence Center for Mycology
and Environmental Studies (KAMU)
Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences
More articles on drug discovery: http://www.laboratory-journal.com/science/life-sciences-biotech
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