When I first saw the sign for Ministry of Mushrooms at Salcedo Market a few months back, I couldn’t help but giggle.
“Is this legal now?” I joked, as I remembered People vs Malmstedt, a landmark warrantless arrest case where accused Malmstedt, a foreigner, was caught on a bus coming from Sagada transporting a kind of marijuana, aka mushrooms.
“Oh Looie, what has become of your brother?” I cracked as I spotted owner-creator Marco Lobregat manning the booth. (Looie Lobregat-Ocampo is the sister of Marco Lobregat and an old friend.)
In fact, Looie would be proud. “We are creating an industry,” Marco explained in a phone interview. Or as their company website puts it: “Over the years (we aim) not only to provide a variety of fresh mushrooms and mushroom products to the Philippines and the global market, but also to be a proactive company in restoration of our planet through mycological applications and solutions.”
Their main product is the oyster mushroom, which apparently has many health benefits. The Pleurotus ostreatus, or oyster mushroom, is considered a medicinal mushroom as it contains statins that work to reduce cholesterol. (Statin is a drug that reduces cholesterol; the best-selling statin, atorvastatin, is marketed as Lipitor.)
A laboratory study by Arizona State University researchers also showed that extracts of white button and other common mushrooms, including oyster mushrooms, reduced the growth of human breast-cancer cells by up to 33 percent.
Last October, the Ministry of Mushrooms teamed up with I Can Serve Foundation, a breast cancer awareness and support foundation founded by documentarian and breast cancer survivor Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, on a campaign called Mushrooms Go Pink. Thirty restaurants agreed to present a special dish using Ministry of Mushrooms’ oyster mushrooms for the entire month of October to make people aware of the benefits of oyster mushrooms in preventing cancer.
October is obviously over, but thankfully, some restaurants have decided to continue supporting the campaign by serving the special oyster mushroom menu right into November. Among the restaurants that still have the special dishes are People’s Palace, Sala Bistro, Pamana in Tagaytay and Chuck’s Deli. Part of the proceeds from the mushroom dishes will go to ICanServe Foundation.
If you would simply like to have the oyster mushrooms at home, you can purchase these at the Ministry of Mushrooms booth at Salcedo Market every Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (and swing by my grand-aunt’s Nana Meng Tsokolate right across it for a swig of hot choco, or kakanin!).
Lobregat might be there himself to give instructions on how to cook or even grow the mushrooms in your own backyard.
While these mushrooms are not the kind to give you a laugh trip, they will definitely make you smile. After all, health is wealth and mushrooms are a fun and delicious way to stay healthy.
For more info, visit ministryofmushrooms.com and icanservefoundation.org.
The author is on margauxlicious.com, Facebook.com/margauxsalcedo and Twitter.com/