Poria mushrooms (scientific name Wolfiporia extensa) are a species of edible wood decay mushroom which tend to grow underground. Also known as China root, Fu Ling, tuckahoe, hoelen, and (in Japan) matsuhodo, these mushrooms are widely grown in China and other Asian countries for their many medicinal properties.
Where To Find Poria Mushrooms And When
Poria mushrooms are cultivated mainly in China and Japan and grow on the roots of pine trees, especially Japanese red pine and mason pine, although they can be found on Fir trees as well. The growing pattern of Poria mushrooms resembles that of the European truffle as they have a distinct undersoil sclerotium.
They are usually available from July to September.
How To Identify Poria Mushrooms
Poria have a bulky undersoil sclerotium (hardened mass of mycelium) which grows up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length and up to 2.2 pounds (1 kg) in weight. The sclerotium is slightly flattened and forms a mass of an irregular shape. The outer shape and color resemble that of a small coconut, russet potato or large truffle mushroom. The exterior color is usually a medium brown although whiter or reddish-beige hues may also occur. Inside, the flesh is off-white.
Poria mushrooms do not have a distinct smell or flavor.
Due to their unusual shape, they do not have any well-known edible or poisonous look-alikes.
How To Grow Poria Mushrooms
Perhaps the only means to grow Poria mushrooms at home on a small scale is through the use of syringes containing liquid Poria cultures and a compatible substrate such as rye berries or dead tree logs. A typical syringe will contain 10 to 20 cc of mushroom mycelium and is enough to inoculate up to 12 pints of substrate. All you have to do is to just release a few drops in every spot or corner of the substrate and wait for a few days for the cultures to grow. In most cases, you will notice some mycelium growth in the spots where you used the syringes. Keep in mind that if you haven’t used all of the syringe contents and you plan to use them again, store the syringe in a fridge at a low temperature that ranges from 35 to 46F (3 to 8C).
The liquid syringe cultures are not easy to obtain but you may find them in some speciality mushroom nurseries and a few online stores that offer liquid cultures of medicinal mushroom species.
Health Benefits of Poria Mushrooms
Traditional Chinese medicine has used Poria mushrooms for centuries. Over the past few decades, they have caught the attention of Western medicine because of their vast potential to fight several common and rare diseases.
The substances behind its potent medicinal action are polysaccharides, triterpenoids, fatty acids, antioxidant sterols, and various other antioxidant nutrients. Although there have not been many large studies concerning its medicinal value, some studies have found potential effects in the following conditions:-
The high polysaccharide content of Poria mushrooms inhibits the growth of cell lines in breast cancer, gastric cancer, leukaemia, and liver cancer.
Immune system regulation.
Poria mushrooms support the action of immune cells and increase the levels of cytokines that boost the power of natural killer cells that fight various bacteria, fungi, and even tumors. At the same time, Poria polysaccharides may inhibit the abnormal increase of B-cells in the body and help that way control autoimmune diseases (i.e. diseases where the immune system attacks the body).
Fatty liver disease.
An in-vitro study has found that Poria mushroom extract can decrease the presence of triglycerides (kinds of fat) which are the main culprit of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Consumption of Poria mushroom-based products and particularly triterpenoids have been shown in a study with mice subjects to decrease blood sugar levels and thus help control type 2 Diabetes.
The polysaccharides contained in Poria mushroom products support the growth of beneficial bacterial cultures in the intestines.
In Chinese medicine, Poria mushroom components are key ingredients in herbal anti-depressant agents like Banxia Houpou and Xiaoyaosan. Two polysaccharides, in particular, may have potential nerve regenerative and anti-depression properties.
Traditionally, these mushrooms have also been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, seizures (epileptic and non-epileptic).
How To Cook Poria Mushrooms
Poria mushrooms may not be the most delicious and fragrant mushrooms. On the other hand, they have been used in their fresh, dried, or powdered form in various traditional Chinese dishes given to hospital patients to support their recovery.
A very popular medicinal dish is “Ba Bao Fan”. This is a rice porridge that is made of several nuts, seeds, legumes and dry fruit. Here is the recipe:-
- 2 cups glutinous rice, soaked in water for 4-6 hours
- 2 cups of water
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups red bean paste
- 4 sliced dried candid mangoes
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 2 tablespoons dried goji berries
- 1 tablespoon Poria mushroom powder
- Soak all the dried fruits in water until tender.
- Combine the rice and water in a steaming pot
- Steam over a high heat for 35-40 minutes or until the rice becomes sticky and the water has evaporated.
- Add the brown sugar and butter and stir.
- Grease the bottom of a round cake mold (detachable) and spread a layer of bean paste. In a separate big bowl combine the candied sticky rice with the dried fruit and the Poria mushroom powder.
- Press the sticky rice with the fruit into the cake mold and even out with a spatula if necessary.
- Allow to cool and keep in the fridge for at least 4 hours before sliding off the mold and serving.
Poria mushrooms are a true medicinal treasure. You can use them in different forms (such as powdered or as capsules) to help prevent or fight various ailments.
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