I believe that you might be confused with the title of this post. I mean, what beer, wurst, and mushrooms have in common? Apparently nothing. However, at the end of this post, you will see that all these things share at least, one thing, that is Me.
All this adventure started with a young scientist traveling from Portugal to the city of Munich to develop a project aiming to fight the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (‘NAFLD’), one of this century’s diseases, with…mushrooms. Ironically, Munich is famous in the promotion of the alcoholic liver disease, hosting one of the biggest beer festivals in the world, the Oktoberfest. Six breweries are present in this event: Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten, with tents in which you can drink, eat and listen to live music. You can also enjoy the many attractions offered outside the tents and go for a ride on the rollercoaster and on the giant wheel.
While visiting Munich, during the Oktoberfest festivities or not, you should not miss the typical Bavarian Breakfast or Weißwurst Frühstück, as they call it. This breakfast is made of half a litre Weißbier (wheat beer), the famous Brezen (pretzels), Weißwurstsenf/Sußersenf (white sausage mustard/sweet mustard) and the Weißwurst (white sausage). Traditionally, it cannot be served after 12 PM, and it might not be the healthiest breakfast, but it is indeed a very tasty one. Not only for breakfast but for other meals, it is known the passion of Germans for sausages, so you have a whole new gastronomic world to explore.
Hand-by-hand with the Oktoberfest and the beginning of the autumn, the mushroom season starts in Bavaria and throughout all Germany. Walking down in forest paths will lead you to some of the wildest mushrooms in Germany, such as Steinpilze and Maronenpilze (Boletus genus) and Pfifferling (Chanterelles). However, if you do not know which mushrooms to pick, the safest plan is to stop by a local farmer’s market and buy some fresh mushrooms or go to the many restaurants which, in the fall, offer special mushroom soups and sauces.
Edible mushrooms have been appreciated since ancient times. Greeks believed that the consumption of mushrooms could give vitality to soldiers, while Romans had the expression “food of the Gods”. The Chinese, which have consumed certain mushrooms species for centuries, use the term “elixir of life”, and use them in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They are rich in proteins, fibers, and vitamins and low in saturated fat. Edible mushrooms have been adopted more recently by western medicine research as potential contributors to therapeutic approaches for a wide range of diseases, including neuropsychiatric disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, viral infections and a long list of metabolic disorders, such as ‘NAFLD’.
With their many colours, shapes and flavors, mushrooms are very nutritive, and can be a healthy addition to your dishes… accompanied by beer. Or not. For sure they are a planet-friendly source of protein so, for this year 2019 I propose you: substitute some “sausages” for MUSHROOMS!
Adriana Fontes (ESR-12) is doing her Ph.D. in Biosciences at the University of Coimbra and at the Institute of Molecular Toxicology and Pharmacology, Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) in Munich.