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27/08/2018

Are the wild mushrooms growing in urban area good for consumption?

Students:  Izolda Kántor & Krisztina Varga, MSc, 2nd year

Scientific advisor: Andreea-Rebeka Zsigmond, PhD, assistant professor

In Transylvania the picking of wild edible mushrooms is a traditional habit, which is still alive in most parts of Europe. The motivating power of this practice is the good taste and nutritive value of the fungi coupled with the time spent in relaxation and pleasant outing. The Agaricus campestris is one of the most sought mushrooms, because it is commonly distributed in hills and meadows, it is easily recognizable, and it grows from May until October.

In a pre-survey we found out, that the A. campestris is widely distributed in Cluj-Napoca, both in the streets and in the parks. Recently, the consumption of fruits and vegetables cultivated in the urban environment raised safty problems because of the pollution. This problem must not be neglected in the case of edible mushrooms too, so much the more the fungi may accumulate toxic elements from the soil more efficiently than the plants. In the case of A. campestris many studies showed the ability of accumulating elements like arsenic, cadmium, mercury and silver.

In the light of these findings our aim was to assess the elemental composition of the A. campestris grown in the city (14 samples from the streets and 11 samples from the parks), as well as grown in the peri-urban medows (the hills surrounding the Făget forest which borders the city in the southern part, 12 samples), and to make a comparison with the elemental composition of the cultivated and commercialized white button mushroom (A. bisporus). The last one was purchased from 10 different Transylvanian companies. Each sample consisted of 3-5 mushroom. The sampling was carried out in May-June, 2015. Following the laboratory preparations, the samples were analyzed at the Centre for Natural Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in Budapest.

The results showed that the mushrooms growing in the green areas of the city carry the fingerprint of the urban environment. These samples had the highest concentrations of sodium, calcium, barium, strontium, aluminium and iron. These metals are the main constituents of concrete and cement, and some of them can be found in the de-icing agents used in winter. With regard to the highly toxic elements like arsenic, cadmium and lead, we compared our results with the data published by the World Health Organization as the maximum allowed concetrations. Thus we can say, that the mushrooms grown in the city can be safety consumed not exceeding 300 g fresh amount per week.

We did not found significant differences between the mineral content of the mushrooms grown in the streets and in the parks. However, the A. campestris grown in the peri-urban meadows had high concentrations of silver, copper and sulphur, meanwhile the cultivated white button mushroom had the lowest mineral content, except for potassium and phosphorus. The main conclusion is that the mushrooms grown in the city were much more abundent in the essential elements than the commercialized ones.

The detailed results of this research can be read in English in the scientific journal Food Composition and Analysis (A. R., Zsigmond, I., Kántor, K., Varga, I., Urák, Z., May, K., Héberger. 2018. Elemental composition of wild growing Agaricus campestris mushroom in urban and peri-urban regions of Transylvania (Romania). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 72: 15-21.)

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