Madura Farms drops by the Columbia Greenmarket every so often with an offering of mushrooms, and after hearing tell of their mythical abilities, Bwog’s resident magician Briana Last dropped by to uncover the truth in this edition of Tales from Farmville. Upon her arrival at the Madura tent, she was directed to Dan Madura, the “funnest of fun,” according to his assistants.
Bwog: What does mushroom farming entail?
Dan Madura: Oh, god. A lot of work. I’ve been growing the mushrooms since 1977, and the exotics the last ten years. I just started the Reishi, which are the most powerful, in March because of the power that they have. They’re the most powerful mushroom. It takes a source, a spawn or spore, and you inoculate the medium to create a mycelium growth, which is the root and it takes about sixty days on a sterile, clean substrate, like wheat straw, sawdust mix, different formulas. All organic, of course.
Bwog: You say the Reishi are the most powerful mushroom?
Dan: I started growing them in March and what you do with them is that you can make a tea. You extract ganoderic acids from them. Ganoderic acids revitalize all of your internal organs in your body by having one cup a day. It takes about a week to get into your system. You mix it with green tea or coffee. You can put them in a soup.
Bwog: What do they taste like?
Dan: I really can’t discern the taste. I drink it with green tea because I don’t drink coffee anymore. What it does is give you more energy but at the same time when you’re ready to go to bed, it helps you fall asleep. It attacks all your allergies. The Japanese call it the mushroom of immortality because it actually makes your organs do less work, so they feel younger inside. It’s just like they’re walking downhill rather than uphill. The Japanese also believe that just looking at it brings you luck. They’ve been using them for thousands of years.
Bwog: How do you get into working with these mushrooms?
Dan: I got into the medicinal mushrooms because of their power. They’re highly anti-cancerous. The Maitake mushrooms (Hen-of-the-Woods), the species name is Grifola Frondosa and they have beta-glucan in them, which is a polysaccharide, a long chain molecule. It actually requires heat to break up the molecule. You cook it and then it’s readily absorbed in the body. It boosts your immune system. It’s a nerve tonic mushroom, so it reduces stress.
Bwog: What are these other mushrooms?
Dan: We have King Oyster Mushrooms, which have statins in it to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and they boost your immune system. The Enokitake mushrooms are good to eat raw, usually in a salad. They’re a little sweeter in taste and they can also be good for stir-fries. The species is anti-inflammatory. These mushrooms are good for diabetics as well. If you have high blood sugar, they will bring it down. And if you have low blood sugar, they will bring it up. It’s an adaptogenic type of mushroom. Then, the Hericium erinaceus or Lion’s Mane, are delicious when made crisp with a little butter or olive oil on a pan. Just wet the pan so the mushroom doesn’t absorb it too much or get too wet, and get it until it’s like French fry. It has a lobster or shrimp-like flavor. When you ingest it, it has erinacine. Erinacine, scientists have found, promotes the growth of neurons in your brain, so it improves your motor functions and helps to inhibit Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. They’ve also found that when injecting erinacine into a Sarcoma-140 cancerous tumor, it actually shrinks the tumor and gives the body a resistance to that type of cancer. It’s really fascinating stuff. I also grow Shitake Mushrooms, which have Lentinin in them. The Japanese have a drug called Lentinin which they give to people who undergo chemotherapy or people with HIV because their immune systems are compromised. Scientists have also done a study in which they left the Shitake with the gills upward, leaving them in the sun. Doing so increased the Vitamin D content in the mushrooms twenty times over.
Bwog: I never knew there was so much to mushrooms.
Dan: There’s a Japanese fellow upstate currently in the process of building a Maitake plant, which will produce 100,000 pounds of mushroom a day. He’s then going to take those mushrooms to a pharmaceutical company to extract the beta-glucan to make a cancer drug.
Bwog: When did you first start farming mushrooms?
Dan: I got into mushroom farming in 1977. The family, we were big vegetable farmers for generations since the Revolution—not the one that’s going on now, that is, the one that happened before. California crops began to push the prices of our vegetables down, so we needed to figure out a way to survive. That’s when I got into growing mushrooms. There’s this huge myth that you have to grow them in caves. I use insulated buildings and in weather like this, I would use greenhouses and shade cloths to get the proper lighting.
Bwog: How often do you eat mushrooms?
Dan: I eat mushrooms every day. I’m drinking Reishi tea now. I drink like four cups a day. I need it because I work about one hundred hours a week. For the last twenty years, I haven’t done any pills. I won’t even take aspirin. When I have a headache, it’s usually because I’m dehydrated so I’ll meditate and hydrate myself. I’ve never gotten sick. You see, all drugs have a warning label. Why would I take one drug only to cause another illness only to have to take another drug? For every ailment you have, there’s a food.
Bwog: For every ailment?
Dan: When archeologists went into the pyramids, they discovered kamut, which it turns out has every amino acid necessary for nutrition. Yogis were drinking green tea and mushrooms for thousands of years. They didn’t know it was the beta-glucan or polysaccharides in them. They found out through intuition. Intuition is a strong power that, in our culture, we seemed to have lost. If you go to India or China, the gurus seem to have more spiritualism. They’ve found their inner selves. When you calm yourself, your intuition comes back.
Bwog: Do you have any nicknames?
Dan: I always say I’m a fun guy. Ya know, because I grow fungi.
Omelet fodder via Wikimedia