Although “shiitake happens” at Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, Sandra and Doug Williams have studied many varieties of mushrooms for more than 30 years. As director of the new Mushrooms for Well Being Foundation, Sandra is a social entrepreneur helping the hungry and advocating for the medicinal properties of mushrooms.

At the Stillwater Public Library’s “Mushroom Mania,” she introduced a few members of the new foundation board which includes scientists and educators Stephen Marek, Patricia Rayas-Duarte, Lin Bockhahn, M. Craig Edwards, along with her husband, fungiphile Doug.

“The foundation’s goals are to promote and teach about ‘shrooms for healthy happy humans,” Williams said.

The nonprofit organization will promote research, education, consumption and production of edible and medicinal mushrooms worldwide.

She said many people can benefit from eating mushrooms, including healthy people trying to stay well, athletes who want to reduce oxidative stress, pre-surgery patients who need to strengthen their immune systems, along with chemo and radiation therapy patients who want to reduce side effects and recover faster. Several studies point to mushrooms as a prime cancer-fighting powerhouse, Williams said.

“Mushrooms can affect psychological and physical states, bringing joy and easing the grief of loss,” she said. “We can look to mushrooms for building strong, lasting health. We are already using mushrooms to treat diseases such as cancer, HIV, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and kidney disorders, heart disease and high cholesterol.”

The basis of the mushroom’s impressive health properties are complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides that build the immune system.

Marek, a plant pathology professor, said the entire food chain is impacted in some form by fungi and there is ongoing research to document the medicinal properties of mushrooms. He also said you have to be very careful because mushrooms are nutritionally good for you – but certain types can also kill you. More than 725 species have been studied but there are an estimated 10,000 different kinds of mushrooms worldwide.

Although mushrooms grow wild throughout Oklahoma, Marek said you need to know how to identify the ones that are edible.

“Don’t eat it if you don’t know what they are,” Marek said.

Almost all mushrooms available at supermarkets are cultivated, not wild, and are available year-round with the most common varieties being the mild tasting white button, flavorful cremini, earthy portobello, savory shiitake and delicate oyster. When purchasing, Williams said to look for firm, smooth and dry caps and avoid damp, pitted or dried-out mushrooms.  Refrigerate loose mushrooms unrinsed in a paper bag and containers of mushrooms in their original package.

Fresh shiitake mushrooms can be purchased at Nature’s Supply, 211 N. Perkins. Exotic mushrooms are available at CM Asian Market, 613 S. Lewis.  Order organic, log-grown shiitakes in season from Lost Creek Mushroom Farm at 405-547-2234 or visit www.shiitakemushroomlog.com. Portions of the sales benefit the Mushrooms in Ghana Project which has introduced growing fungus as a means of supporting women and children, along with feeding the masses in Africa.

Log-grown shiitakes have 18 percent protein by mass and are high in calcium, iron, phosphorus, niacin and other B vitamins. Williams said shiitakes are proven to strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, fight viruses, reduce inflammation and improve circulation.

For more information about supporting the foundation’s research and educational mission, email lcmf@provalue.net.

Twitter @ElizabethKeysNP

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