By guest contributor: Robyn Cooper
Oyster, Shiitake, Chanterelle, Button, Blewitt, Gypsy, Horn of Plenty, Lions Mane, Hedgehog, Morel, Reishi.
These are just a few names for the estimated 1.5 million types of fungi that scatter the planet and appear on our plates; adding flavour, texture and meatiness to many popular dishes that we enjoy today.
There has always been a sense of mysteriousness behind the almighty mushroom: eat the wrong one and you will surely find yourself poisoned; eat the right one and you will be flying over rainbows and listening to talking rabbits and caterpillars. Oh wait, those are wrong ones too! Alright then, eat the right ones and you will be adding Umami to your meals (the recently discovered fifth taste, adding to the
sweet, salty, sour and bitter that we are more familiar with), as well as some very desirable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Umami is a Japanese word that means “pleasant savoury taste” and represents foods that are high in glutamates and nucleotides, with the overall effect of balance taste and roundness to the total flavour of a dish. Glutamates are flavour enhancers, but unlike the notorious MSG (monosodium glutamate) hiding in some processed foods, mushrooms add a natural source of glutamates without all of the extra sodium.
So mushrooms taste delicious, but what about that rumour going around that mushrooms don’t have any nutritional value? Well I am here to tell you to eat your shrooms because they are good for you!
Edible mushrooms contain protein, B vitamins, copper, magnesium, vitamin C, amino acids, potassium, phosphorous, folate, selenium and iron. Mushrooms are also rich in the trace mineral germanium, which protects against damage from free radicals and promotes the efficient use of oxygen in the body. Including mushrooms in your diet can aid the nervous system, stimulate the immune system and protect against cardiovascular disease, mutagens and toxins, as well as assist with your metabolism. Each type of mushroom carries with it different properties that promote a range of health benefits. The top medicinal varieties to look out for are: Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, and Crimini.
When shopping for mushrooms, look for ones that are dry to the touch, firm (but not woody), and plump, avoiding those that are wilted, discoloured and wet.
Do NOT pick your own mushrooms! Unless you are a mushroom expert or have joined a mushroom searching club with a trained mycologist, it is just not worth the risk. Look for different fresh and dried varieties showing up at your farmer’s and grocery markets.
Store mushrooms is in a paper bag in the fridge, in the main compartment where there is good air circulation.
Cooking mushrooms increases the bio-availability of the nutrients. Most of the nutrients are located in the skin, which our stomachs cannot digest without the aid of softening through heat. You can eat them whole or cut, however, slicing actually reduces the B₂ (riboflavin) content by 33 percent. (try smaller mushroom varieties such as enoki and eat whole).
So for you all you mushroom doubters out there, now you know that adding funghi’s to your world not only adds fun, but taste and nutrition too!