I recently visited Lusaka, Zambia and One evening with friends while walking in town. I saw women selling what looked like some dried vegetable.  I stopped out of interest to have a look and to my surprise it was mushrooms (deep orange mushrooms, smelt of soil and moist)

They have a distinct smell, they smell like they are alive and breathing. They were moist and had some soil/dirt on them. I got excited, because a couple of years ago I did a weight loss study on men in South Africa (Johannesburg). The aim of the study was to compare weight loss in men who would eat meat daily as a protein and those who swapped meat for mushrooms for 12 weeks. The results were amazing, and the Mushroom group lost weight (https://mushroominfo.co.za/images/DietitiansNewsletter/dietician-final-report-mdsmbali.pdf )

When I saw these mushrooms, I was reminded of the piles of mushrooms I use to keep in my house and distribute to the men in the study. The mushrooms we used in the study portobello (big brown) and porta Bellini (small white buttons) mushrooms. These ones I came across in Lusaka were dark orange, beautiful, delicate mushrooms. I asked for a punnet and the woman measured a whole lot into a black plastic and told me it was K10 (10 Kwacha) very cheap for a bag full of mushrooms. I picked one and tasted and the woman and all my friends reached for my hand that was going to my mouth in so much fear. I was told that you cannot eat them until their washed – However, as far as I know from the information that was shared with me by the South African big mushroom farmers that use to deliver mushrooms to (you don’t wash mushrooms, but you wipe them with a dry clean cloth)

I could not believe that easily in the streets of Lusaka, you just find mushrooms and they cheap. Mushrooms are tricky though because wild mushrooms can be poisonous.  These Deep orange beauties are very similar to the poisonous wild mushrooms.  These ones though, the locals enjoy to eat them as a protein source and serve them with “Nshima” local maize meal – Pap.

Mushrooms are superfoods:

  • Good source of fibre
  • Good source of plant proteins
  • High in B- Vitamins
  • Selenium
  • Potassium
  • Packed with antioxidants

All the nutrients play a role in boosting our immune system, improves our digestion, protects us against diseases, can be part of the weight loss diet – in this part of the word that is not really a focus, but food security is the focus, and overall disease preventative e.g. Certain cancers.

During the rainy season in Zambia like this time of the year, mushrooms sprung everywhere, which is a good thing because he community benefits from them.

My worry is my friends and the woman who sold me these mushrooms panicked when I picked one and ate it.  I ask myself is it difficult to distinguish between the edible and poisonous mushrooms, if that’s the case how do they know which one to pick and sell or eat?  On my next visit to Zambia, I wish to interact with agriculturalists in the country that specialize in Mushrooms.  This in my opinion puts once very close to death – wrong pick, then you can die from poisonous mushrooms.

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