Many years ago, in the middle of the desert, I encountered Paul Stamets, lecturing a large crowd wearing a hat made from mushrooms. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the study of mycelium, he is a treasure trove of how these fungi that dot the forest floors and grow atop the trees are wonders of the earth, providing natural medicine that healers have been investigating and treasuring for thousands of years.
Of mushrooms, Stamets has said, “[Mushrooms] They are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors, our ancestors, and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.”
He infers that they are not all created equal, and for Vosges’ use, taste does matter, so when weighing our options against our Superior Source criteria, our quest to include wellness benefits in our chocolates without compromising delicious haut-chocolat, we settled on three types of mushrooms that ticked all the boxes. They add different parfums to recipes with varying taste profiles, some mild and tender, others pungent and earthy.
What do all the mushrooms that we chose to include in our confections have in common? They are all high-vibrational food. Consuming mushrooms give you a concentrated bump of energy, focus, and overall vitality. They have all been used in eastern medicine for far longer than they have been recognized in western medicine, and they all have a myriad of health benefits that is very concentrated in a small-sized fungus.
First, meet the Chaga mushroom. Also called the “True Tinder” because of its charcoal-looking exterior, one of this mushroom’s distinguishing characteristics is that it grows on the tops of trees, like the birch, rather than at the base of the tree. For centuries Japanese, Chinese, and Siberian growers have taken advantage of this mushroom’s medicinal and culinary uses.
It's a gnarly and rough textured mushroom, with a soft, even squishy, interior used in chunks or ground to make teas or blended into chocolate. When used in tea, it is harvested live and ground with a hand grinder or mortar and pestle, releasing one of the highest levels of antioxidants, essential vitamins, and nutrients found in nature.
Chaga also aids in lowering cholesterol, preventing, and slowing the increase of bad cholesterol. It supports the immune system, reducing inflammation throughout the body's main organs.
Chaga’s mild, aromatic, earthy taste is smooth and slightly bitter, but sweet with a hint of vanilla. It has a very pleasant scent that carries the bark of the tree, leaving a trace of incense on the palette.
Made and decorated by hand, each Mushroom Extraordinaire stands nearly 6 inches tall, weighs 1.25 pounds, and is filled with soft dark chocolate hazelnut and Chaga mushroom ganache. The centerpiece of any Easter fête or celebration of Spring.
Lion’s Mane is also a special fungus that Stamets suggests is our “first smart mushroom”. It’s an edible mushroom that has cognitive benefits as we age, protecting against dementia and aiding in the treatment of mild depression and anxiety. It has been proven to stimulate brain cells, attributing to its use in the field of brain and mental health.
Buddhist monks used these mushrooms in their meditation practices to enhance their concentration, and memory and to better tap into the life force of Qi.
Its strengths do not stop there. It has been used in the treatment of nervous system injury recovery, for the regulation of blood sugar in diabetic patients, to support the immune system, and to help prevent ulcers. It is rich in thiamine, riboflavin and niacin .
You can recognize the Lion’s Mane mushroom by its pom-pom shape. It is a white mushroom that has icicle-like, shaggy spines which have a stringy texture that resembles the fur of a lion. This mushroom has a mildly sweet flavor. It is delicate and juicy, tender and a bit chewy much like a scallop or lobster. It is sometimes used as an alternative to these kinds of seafood and crab, due to matching textures and taste profiles.
It is not, however, the lion’s mane that is the king of the forest. That honor belongs to the Reishi mushroom, and specifically, to the most rarified and potent of them, the antler Reishi. Considered the panacea of the mushrooms, with multiple uses and abilities for improving our health, Stamets says of the antler Reishi mushroom that it “stands out as one of the most valuable mushrooms in nature of for the overall benefit of our health”.
The colorful display of one of the most beautiful fruits produced by a mycelium, these mushrooms have been used for over 4000 years since they first appear in the documentation of Chinese medicine, considered the “king of herbs” and the “mushroom of immortality”.
This elixir of life is the most divine of the mushrooms, which from a spiritual perspective, harmonizes life force and energy. It symbolized success, well-being, divine power, and longevity.
Reishi s considered so special it was kept secret and was reserved for the royal court and emperors. This was also due to its rarity, with sometimes only a yield of one of every 100,000 Reishi being an antler.
What makes the antler so sacred? Harvested young, this mushroom has the highest concentration of its most potent benefits. It contains germanium to protect against cancer cells and reduce the risk of tumor cells. It targets cholesterol and excess fat, improves oxygen absorption, and balances the blood by ridding it of toxins.
The Reishi contains Adenosine which also cleanses the blood and aids in circulation. Triterpenoids inhibit histamines which relieve allergies and pain, protect against liver damage, and inhibit inflammation. Amino acids, found in the Reishi repair muscle tissue, organs, and skin. Reishi when ingested also protects against pollutants in the environment.
While it takes time for Reishi to build up in the system, once it does, it can reduce fatigue and improve sleep.
All of these contribute to the mushroom’s ability to improve the health of the body from the inside out. It is not a cover-up for symptoms, but a way to work to solve them.
Reishi mushrooms have a woody flavor that is slightly bitter and often noted as being less appealing in taste than other varietals of mushrooms. It is sometimes compared to the bitterness of dark chocolate, though, and so it makes sense then, that it is made more palatable with chocolate, which balances out its less favorable qualities.
The winter slumber is over, and the return of Persephone is imminent. Though the ground may still be covered in frost, she reminds you to push through. Our spring collection celebrates her tenacity and the abundance the earth provides during the season of rebirth. This collection offers limited edition truffles and our mini enchanted mushrooms in an array of superior sourced spices, nuts, and fruits that fete the season of renewal. The centerpiece of the Persephone is a bombe of the same name made with Reishi and Chaga Mushroom + 62% cacao dark chocolate + hand topped with fresh edible flowers from Chef’s Garden.
All these mushrooms contribute to our recipes in healthful and flavorful ways. They offer high vibrational elements, and adaptogens, and delight the tastebuds while they feed the mind and body.
A bonus treat: Should you also like to try one of our wellness chocolate bars containing another powerful mushroom, the Chanterelle, and experience one of our Pure Plant bars:
A pioneering collaboration with Dr. William Li, we bring you the Pure Plant walnut chocolate bar. Walnuts have a wealth of polyunsaturated fats. Adding walnuts to one’s diet has been shown to lower LDL or bad cholesterol. The mushroom is one of nature’s most giving medicinal plants. Chanterelle mushrooms contain beta-glucans and fifteen different amino acids. They are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D and Beta-Carotene.