February 27, 2017

Mushrooms named desire

Through time and people, mushrooms have had the reputation of boosting sexual ardour.

 

The truffle, for example, had this reputation among ancient Greeks. The excitement of the sows attracted by these protuberances under oak trees must have stimulated imaginations. The attraction is linked to the emission of pheromones close to the testosterone of boars. Nowadays, the fortune one has to pay for a Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum), as much as the mushroom’s intense musky aroma, may foster desire.

 

The flavour of matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) is called umami, meaning appetizing in Japanese. In Japan, the worship of young specimens depends more on the suggestive shape of their cap than on their taste. A box containing one of these is a traditional pledge of fertility to offer the newlyweds. The old specimens, arguably more tasteful, are downgraded because they are not as evocative.

 

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) has an alleged virilizing effect. This claim is also strengthened by an evocative form. It is credited with many health benefits other than sexual potentiator and also has a savoury umami flavour. The species is not indigenous to America, but, cultivated, it can be found here and in most grocery stores.

 

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is nicknamed in China the mushroom of longevity. Mainly cultivated today, it grows in the wild like a red hand emerging from a trunk. Among its innumerable tonic effects is the recovery of erectile dysfunction. Ours, the native hemlock reishi (G. tsugae), deserves the same consideration.

 

According to a Chinese legend, the yaks, after digging snow to feed on cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), begin rutting. A shepherd, inspired by this sight, ate some: the results were so convincing that the emperor decided to keep the harvest for himself alone. As is well known, erections require an influx of blood to the penis: by a vasodilator effect, the mushroom is deemed to ease the flow. Among the many related species, the indigenous but elusive military cordyceps (C. militaris) is said to have similar properties.

 

According to another Chinese belief, the bamboo fungus or crinoline stinkhorn (Phallus indusiatus) leads women to orgasm. Its fetid smell and its suggestive port combine to make it a sought-after stimulant in the Far East. The allegation would also apply to native species of the same genus (Phallus) with similar bouquets: common, red, netted, and Ravenel’s stinkhorns. Who would dare to try it?

 

 

In a more pleasant register, sotolon is the main aromatic compound of our burnt sugar milky (Lactarius helvus). The compound, also typical of fenugreek, is not degraded by digestion: it embalms the eater with an unmistakable maple scent, rendering him all the more desirable. Is the partner not the most powerful of all aphrodisiacs? 

 

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