Fungus could fun up your Valentine’s Day.
n the South Pacific, legend tells of women writhing in sexual ecstasy after eating mushrooms they found growing wild in the forest. Normans fed grooms a dish made from a pound of mushrooms to prepare them for their wedding night, and Mataco Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, rubbed the red underside of bracket fungus on their faces to boost their sex appeal. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church banned highly sought-after cardoncello mushrooms for the unforgiveable sin of making parishioners horny.
When it comes to sexy time, shrooms have a history.
Flesh colored and globular, they come by their reputation naturally. But not all the 14,000 species of mushrooms have the power of sexual persuasion. Only a handful have stood as aphrodisiac champions down through the centuries. Here’s a rundown of the naughty mushrooms and a little bit about how to eat them, something to chew on when planning your Valentine’s Day.
Ancient Greeks believed truffles were created when lightning impregnated the earth with its seed, and they’ve been called the earth’s testicles. They have been legendary since ancient Rome, when Pliny offered six ways to prepare the delicacies in his compendium of aphrodisiacs. Napoleon was said to be a fan.
“Truffles. As soon as the word is spoken, it awakens lustful and erotic memories among the skirt-wearing sex and erotic and lustful memories among the beard-wearing sex,” European gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1825. “This honorable parallelism comes not only from the fact that this esteemed tuber is delicious, but also because it is still believed to bring about potency, the exercise of which brings sweet pleasure.”
Also known as white diamonds, truffles are one of the most coveted foods in the world, and their price tag—anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 per pound—reflects that. Like caviar and fine champagne, they seduce by being elusive and expensive. A fungus that lives symbiotically with tree roots, truffles can be found in only a few places on earth. They emit a chemical called androstenol, which is nearly identical to a male pig sex hormone and also found in men’s underarm sweat (there’s no accounting for what turns us humans on). While we swoon for the smell of truffles after they’ve been harvested, human noses don’t have what it takes to find them underground. Pigs and dogs can be trained to root them out for us, but that’s not cheap. In Brillat-Savarin’s day, the upper classes showed off by stuffing hens with truffles.
That’s not the best way to enjoy them. To get the most out of truffles, serve them raw, grated or sliced with a truffle slicer (yes, there’s such a thing) over fresh pasta, sauces, soups, risotto, or scrambled eggs. You can also make truffle butter—use it to sauté mushrooms for a real treat—or truffle honey, which is amazing when drizzled over gorgonzola crostini or baked brie. (You can also buy truffle butter and truffle honey in gourmet stores or online.)
Make your own:
½ ounce fresh black or white truffles, cleaned
8 ounces raw organic honey
Using a microplane grater, grate truffle into honey. Stir until well integrated.
Replace lid and refrigerate for 48 hours. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
In India and China, Cordyceps sinensis has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries. Also known as “Himalayan Viagra,” it’s a rare fungus that gets inside a ghost moth caterpillar burrowed in the soil for the winter, then slowly consumes and digests it from within. In the spring, the bright yellow, wormlike fungus blossoms up and out of the ill-fated caterpillar’s head. Legend has it that Tibetan yak herders were the first to notice their yaks had more energy and vitality when they ate cordyceps, and now it’s being touted as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for combating sexual dysfunction. Eating powdered cordyceps supports blood flow and oxygen supply, and clinical studies have found it supports healthy blood circulation in the penis and increases sperm count and quality.
Wild cordyceps will run you $20,000 per pound and up, but you can buy much cheaper cultured Cordyceps militaris, which is vegan-grown on brown rice or soy (no caterpillars have to die). Eat them raw, cooked in food, or made into tea. They can be sautéed or stewed with meat if you’re a carnivore. Cordyceps powder can be blended into coffee or chai or added to stir-fries, soups, salads, or pasta.
In Asia, reishi mushrooms have been known as the magic mushrooms of the bedroom for thousands of years. Reishi supports the kidney and urinary system, which is the seat of sexual power in traditional Chinese medicine. Great for the brain, emotional well-being, and the immune system, reishi can help the body become more resilient to stress—the No. 1 cock blocker—over time. If you’re considering this one to spice up your Valentine’s Day, be aware that reishi can also put you to sleep.
Reishi powder and dried reishi are readily available at health food stores and online. When buying reishi powder, look for organic brands that use hot-water extraction, which retains the most nutrients. With a smoky, almost chocolaty flavor, reishi is great in smoothies, teas, and as a coffee alternative.
Make your own:
Vegan Reishi Golden Milk
3 cups plant milk (almond, coconut, oat, cashew)
5 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon reishi powder
3 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Ground pepper, to taste
In a saucepan over low heat, whisk ingredients together until well combined. Pour into mugs and serve.
Fleshy and juicy, shiitake mushrooms check all the aphrodisiac boxes. They’re full of zinc, which gets the blood flowing and boosts testosterone, and lentinan, which is believed to enhance erectile function. In a study of voles fed shiitake extract for three weeks, males with withering libido saw their sexual motivation restored with 1.5 times more ejaculations. Donko shiitake, which have white designs on their tops, are believed to pack the most punch.
You can find shiitakes at your local grocer. Slice the meaty cap and sauté it in olive oil or duck fat. Shiitake pair well with onions, garlic, and ginger. They’re great in stir-fries and soups (miso in particular).
If you believe ethnobotanist Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape theory of human evolution, the psilocybin mushroom’s aphrodisiac qualities were key to humans’ survival as a species. McKenna wrote that primitive humans’ experimentation with high doses of magic mushrooms increased male potency and opened up worlds of possibilities, like inventing languages and having group sex. “Everyone would get loaded around the campfire and hump in an enormous writhing heap,” McKenna is quoted as saying. These magic mushroom–fueled orgies led to genetic diversification, making humans more disease-resistant. And with no way to trace who was whose daddy, communities formed to raise children—another leap for humankind.
That’s something to think about, though it’s admittedly a little academic for Valentine’s Day. Bottom line is that many people, including famous ethnobotanists, consider psilocybin an aphrodisiac even though it doesn’t in and of itself increase libido. It does open your mind and cause your brain to pump out the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Your skin gets more sensitive, and touch feels more pleasurable. With the right person or persons, magic mushrooms can spark intense, intimate conversation, mind-blowing orgasms, and cosmic-level cuddling.
Psilocybin mushrooms should be heated to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and preferably above 200 degrees Fahrenheit to release their nutrients, get rid of harmful pathogens and toxins, and soften the tissues to make them more digestible. You can eat them fresh, dried and ground, or made into tea. Pairing them with mint and lemon can help ward off any early nausea they might induce.
Legality varies, so find out what you need to know based on where you live if you’re considering a Valentine’s Day trip.
Recipe by Kate Avruch / Servings: 2
3 grams dried psilocybin mushrooms
3 ounces unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, or enough to cover the mushrooms
Raw honey, to taste (optional)
Coffee grinder, blender, or knife
Two 32-ounce wide-mouth glass jars
Wax or parchment paper
Fine mesh strainer
Cheesecloth or coffee filters
Make sure shrooms are thoroughly dry. Chop or grind them into small pieces or powder.
Loosely layer mushrooms into bottom of a clean half-gallon mason jar. Add the vinegar. Place a layer of parchment paper between the metal lid and the top of the jar so the acidic solution doesn’t deteriorate the metal rim of the lid. Seal the jar, enclosing the parchment paper underneath.
Place the jar in a warm location (but out of direct sunlight) and allow the vinegar to infuse for a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily.
Line strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filter, place over funnel, and strain the liquid into the second jar. Firmly squeeze out the mushrooms through the cheesecloth or coffee filter.
If honey is cold, place the honey jar in pot of simmering water to warm gently.
Taste vinegar mixture and add warmed honey, 1 tablespoon at a time, to taste.
Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
You can step up this infusion’s potency by changing the ratio of mushrooms to liquid and enjoy it as a solo shot or in a smoothie or your favorite tea.
Avruch also suggests adding other beneficial ingredients, including reishi mushrooms, garlic cloves, horseradish root, grated ginger, rosemary, cayenne pepper, citrus, oregano, sage, echinacea, cinnamon, black peppercorns, or rose hips.