Corn-tamination Series: Mushrooms

When my corn allergy became more sensitive, I found that I started reacting to mushrooms purchased from the grocery store. But I could eat them if I grew them myself, or purchased them from a cultivator at the farmers’ market who grew his mushrooms on sawdust.
It’s been suggested by another mushroom cultivator  that I could just be allergic to Agaricus mushrooms, but I react to shiitakes grown on corn medium and don’t react to shiitakes grown on a straw medium, so there’s evidence that the medium does matter, at least for me. I suspect the reaction is more due to cross contamination rather than allergens actually making it into the fruiting body.

Portobellos, buttons, and criminis are the same species of mushroom in different stages of maturity and they have to grow on compost. That can mean just about anything, as long as it’s rotted. I don’t know what the smaller operations will find to be useful or cheap for compost but I am positive that the BIG guys use some kind of corn medium because I react to the mushrooms, and actually within the last year or so I have begun to have airborne reactions from being on the same block as some of the bigger agaricus growing operations.

Other mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, morels, basically the “weirder” mushrooms all grow on cellulose, so typically wood cellulose and grains such as barley and rye, but could also be corn cobs, kernels, or husks.

The mushrooms will not be rinsed with anything generally as water will make them slimy but I imagine that they could *possibly* be sprayed with some kind of preservative. I have no evidence that anyone does so, it just seems possible. The trays the mushrooms come in could contain corn fibers. If the mushrooms are covered with plastic, the plastic could be corny or could be dusted with corn starch.

A nice article on how different types of mushrooms are grown. 

Another possible issue if you are purchasing mushrooms from some vendors is the baskets they come in: Those green composite baskets cause problems for a lot of people.

Cross Contamination With Gluten and Other Allergens

For a long time I was able to eat mushrooms from a farmers market vendor who grows theirs on barley and sawdust. Unfortunately I began to have a gluten (but not corn) reaction to the mushrooms, intermittently. I think the issue is cross contamination with the growth medium. Not sure if the cross contamination is handling/storage of the mushrooms and growth medium together, or if it’s coming through in the mycelium. I don’t think that it’s in the actual fruiting body of the mushroom, but I do think that it’s possible the mycelium still contains traces of gluten, especially in a short growth cycle where it’s possible the mycelium of the mushroom is not completely consuming the grain and associated gluten.

Growing Your Own Edible Mushrooms

I’m busy right now now with other priorities so I’m just not eating mushrooms, but I do plan to begin growing my own soon. In the past I have had great luck with mushroom growing kits and sawdust spawn from Fungi Perfecti.  The Oyster Mushroom kits are darn easy even for the total newbie, but they also do *some* phone tech support if you need it. Generally it’s best to hit up the blogs and forums, and perhaps even buy a book or two to get you started.

Note that I have not looked at the “corn safety” of the plastic sheeting or plastic bags of their kits, just know that they were fine for me when I was medium-sensitive. I bet they would be happy to answer questions about their materials. When I got more sensitive I was already pretty experienced at growing mushrooms. Rather than getting a pre-made kit,   I just put together my own safe materials for a fruiting chamber and got some sawdust spawn to colonize my own safe growth medium.

Corn-tamination Series: Berries

I can eat some organic berries and not others. It’s not the berries themselves: it’s corn.  Giant brand organic strawberries were no good, but Driscoll’s I can have. Driscoll’s and some french-canadian brand of blueberries I can do, but not Naturipe organic blueberries. And I can’t do any berries that have the soaker pads in them, no matter who they came from. I’ve also reacted to locally-picked organic berries at the farmers’ market.  Even the Driscoll’s berries that I can tolerate, I only tolerate *most* of the time, not all of the time. Once in a while I’ll get a carton or two that are no good and have to return or give them away.

A little googling tells me that the list of pesticides and fungicides allowed on organic berries is lengthy. Pyganic (pyrethrin) is just one of the sprays. The active ingredient is 2% of the mix and undisclosed “other ingredients” that smell like vegetable oil according to the MSDS makes up the other 98%. Considering some of my experiences with trying to get details on the “other ingredients” of products like this I doubt I’d be able to find out exactly what’s in it, but I think it’s safe enough to assume corn-based solvents and coating agents.

I asked a friend who has worked at a berry farm about other ways that corn could get in. My first thought was that the berries might be rinsed with citric acid, as some bagged salad greens are, and here’s what he said (paraphrased):

The berries aren’t rinsed as they will start to deteriorate quickly if rinsed. They ARE however gas-ripened with ethylene gas (from corn ethanol). Strawberries are grown on black plastic (could be corny) sheets for weed control. Berries are watered with PVC drip hoses, and there are TONS of fertilizers that are organic but corny. There are also many kinds of organic dusts and pest control sprays that could be corny.

Berres are often picked with corn starch-powdered gloves, possibly even latex, and they are also shipped in cardboard containers which could  contain corn fibers.  Those green composite baskets cause problems for a lot of people. There is also a very real possibility for cornfields right next to where the berries are grown.

For grocery store berries, there are also the soaker pads- I don’t know what the pads themselves are made out of, but pads like that often contain corn-derived citric acid as a preservative/anti-microbial.

So there ya go! Only about a million ways for corn to get in!

My Secret Grapefruit Ritual

Actually, it’s not a secret, and it’s not even my ritual. And it works for other citrus fruit as well. Half of it was taught to me as a child, and the other half was *just* suggested to me a couple of weeks ago.

But back up. Let’s talk about why I even have a grapefruit ritual. It’s because of the wax. Many fruits and vegetables, even organic ones, are waxed to preserve them and to improve their appearance before they hit the grocery stores/co-ops. The wax on organic fruits and vegetables is *supposed* to be from carnauba wax or shellac, which *should* be corn-free. Unfortunately, like many other things that *should* be corn free, they aren’t. I’m not totally sure what’s corny in them, but I suspect that the wax is mixed with a solvent like ethanol (from corn) to allow it to coat the fruit better, and then the ethanol evaporates leaving the wax and the corn particles behind.

Anyway, I haven’t ever really managed to peel a waxed apple, cucumber, zuchinni, or other thin-skinned fruit or veggie carefully enough to avoid contaminating the inside with wax residue from the peeling instrument. No matter how carefully I tried to peel them, I would end up getting some wax in my mouth and paying the price. So I just didn’t eat most fruit and many veggies out of season for a long time, opting instead to only eat produce from local farmers whom I could question about their practices. Then I became allergic to pretty much all winter vegetables, and I got hungry enough to get adventurous. With a little advice from some other adventurous corn allergics, I was able to arrive at a way to eat thick-skinned fruit like grapefruit safely.

This method is working for me. Your mileage may vary.
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