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Golden Thread Mushrooms
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Golden Thread mushrooms belong to the Ascomycetes, or flask fungi group. The orange hued mushrooms are long and thin, growing up to two and a half inches in length. The club-like caps are undistinguished from the thin stems. It has an earthy aroma, and indistinguishable flavor.
Cultivated Golden Thread mushrooms are available year-round in Asia, whereas wild Golden Thread is available in limited quantities in the summer.
Golden Thread mushrooms are also known in English as the Caterpillar fungus. The fungus is scientifically classified as Cordyceps sinensis. In nature, the fungus has a symbiotic relationship not with a tree or plant, but with the larva of the ghost moth. The larva buries itself in the ground during the winter where it is inhabited by the fungus. The fungus normally grows during summer earning the nickname “summer grass winter worm.” Unlike its natural counterpart, cultivated Golden Thread mushrooms are grown organically using brown rice substrate.
The Chinese believe the Golden Thread mushrooms strengthen the immune system, have anti-aging abilities and can help repair damage to the lungs and liver. The Chinese believe that the mushroom is especially effective against nasal cancer and throat cancer. Golden Thread mushrooms contain immune supporting polysaccharides, beta-glucans and tumor inhibiting compounds.
Golden Thread mushrooms are often used in soups and stews because it maintains its texture even when cooked.
The Golden Thread mushroom is commonly used in Asian medicine, and is consumed as a health food in China, Korea and Japan. It is known as Yartsa Gunbu in Bhutan, just south of Tibet, and as Chong Cao Hua in Chinese which translates into ‘worm grass flower.’ The Mykot tribe in the Himalayas have been consuming the stem-like fungus for hundreds of years, claiming it contributes to increased energy and endurance for high-altitude activities.
The Golden Thread mushrooms are both cultivated and found growing in the wild. Wild Caterpillar fungus can be found growing in the Tibetan and Chinese Himalayan mountains and is known as “Himalayan Viagra.” Golden Thread mushrooms are rare in the wild which makes them very expensive. Turf wars have been waged over forage areas in Tibet, as money earned from the sale of the prized fungus greatly contributes to the income of herders in the mountainous region. Due to the nature of gathering the fungus and the harsh conditions of the natural growing environment, different methods of cultivation have been explored. Cultivated Golden Thread mushrooms have the same medicinal qualities as its wild counterpart, only they are available at a mere fraction of the cost of the foraged fungus.