Drinking Mushroom


I was in the cafeteria chatting with some of the staff at the boys’ school a few weeks ago and was offered a new drink to try. They asked, “have you ever tried mushroom?” I though I had misunderstood them. Did they say, “greeb” (mushroom) or “greepp” (the flu)? Neither made much sense, to say the least. They were talking about a drink sitting in front of me in a large jar – a cloudy brown substance. Since I’d never heard of it, they started extolling its virtues. It’s supposed to be terribly good for you, with all kinds of great bacteria in it, etc., etc. So I tried it. It’s a tangy, slightly fermented, almost soda-like form of tea, from which it is usually made. Not too bad, in fact, once you get used to it.

Ever being the adventurer, I agreed to take some culture with me to grow at home. This is when I understood the name, since what they gave me looks distinctly fungal by nature. So while I started to grow it in my tea, I did some research. Have you figured out what this is yet? We call it “kombucha.” According to Wikipedia:

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented by a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony,” usually consisting principally of Acetobacter-species and yeast cultures. It has gained much popular support within many communities, mentioned by talk show hosts and celebrities. The increase in popularity can be seen by the many commercial brands coming onto the retail market and thousands of web pages about this fermented beverage.

Not long after this, I ran into a lady at the local farmer’s market (where I get much of my fresh food and cultural interaction) who was selling books and samples of greeb and another variety called milk greeb. I just love talking with and buying from babushkas at the market, so this was a great education for me. So, ever being the adventurer, I decided to try this as well.

Finding out about this stuff is much harder online, at least in English. I think it’s called Tibetan fermented milk. It’s a kind of kefir, and does not taste anything as bad as kumiss, which is the fermented milk I had while living in Kyrgyzstan.

How does the family greet all this? Kerith likes the tea; Simon tolerates it. Lydia likes the kefir. I tolerate both. Diana has to be sweet-talked into taking her RDA. We’ve been seeing more than our fair share of illness over the last month, especially Diana and the boys, and so I’m taking no chances.

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