Mushrooms: Mycological Marvels In Nature And Your Kitchen


Published:

Neither animal nor plant (though related to both), mushrooms occupy their own special place in culinary, nutritional and plant medicinal use and lore. They, like molds and mildew, are fungi; they live off organic matter, not sunlight, like plants.  

Mushrooms and other fungi play a critical role in nature’s ecosystem. They are master deconstructors and recyclers of energy and nutrients, reducing organic matter to its essential components. They feed the very base of the food chain; a fungal layer coats our entire planet, and acts a bit to the biosphere like the microflora in our lower digestive tract act for us — fungi is, in fact, part of our microflora — clearing, feeding and sustaining the dynamic balance of life.
Fungi’s digesting actions ferment beer and bring the probiotic tanginess to sourdough and sauerkraut. These mycological actors also play beyond the kitchen, from creating a range of antibiotic medicines to making a kind of leather to dissolving styrofoam.

Mushroom Nutrition  

Because mushrooms have that unctuous umami flavor, they are often used as a replacement for meat. That may explain why many people think mushrooms are a better source of protein than they actually are. While they, like vegetables, do contain some protein, eating them with richer sources like nuts, grains or beans will give you the plant protein boost you seek.

Mushrooms are, overall, delicious little nutrition powerhouses. They are low in calories, modest in fiber and rich in B vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium and zinc. Mushrooms are also high in antioxidants like selenium, glutathione (called the mother of all antioxidants since other antioxidants can be synthesized from this master nutrient), and ergothioneine (ERGO). They help prevent oxidative stress, support bone health, detoxification and overall healing. High-antioxidant mushrooms, like maitakis, have shown promise in cancer prevention and treatment.

If mushrooms are grown under light, they can be a rare good source of vitamin D. Observational studies suggest that people who eat mushrooms daily have lower rates of breast cancer and dementia, though this type of study is not definitive. The composition and concentration of nutrients in mushrooms varies widely by variety.

To Gather Or Not To Gather?

Mushrooms grow year round, but are most plentiful in fall. While cultivated mushrooms may be available anytime, most wild mushrooms only appear in autumn. One exception is the morel, which grows in spring.

Mushroom-human relationships can be complicated. Certain mushrooms are psychoactive; they contain chemicals — usually psilocybin — that expands human consciousness. Psilocybin mushrooms have been used for centuries in spiritual context, and more recently, described by botanists like Michael Pollan in modern spiritual psychology.

Certain mushrooms can, unfortunately, as plant educator Pam Montgomery says, heal you dead. If you live in New England, you likely have a friend who has landed in the hospital due to eating the wrong mushroom. Even expert mushroom gatherers occasionally fall prey to confusing an edible mushroom with a poisonous one. So for most of us, that means not to gather, but to enjoy mushrooms from your local market or knowledgeable gatherers. If you do gather and eat mushrooms, use extreme caution and common sense. Be mindful of not overharvesting. If you are interested in learning about culinary and other mushrooms, the Boston Mycological Club is an excellent group; they regularly forage and then identify mushrooms they find.

Varieties

The most common mushrooms available are white buttons. Baby bellas, also called criminis, which are deeper brown and have a bit richer flavor, are increasingly available. Portabella mushrooms are a more mature version of brown crimini mushrooms, with a longer growing period. Portabellas have meat-like texture and flavor and are often used as a vegetarian substitute for meat. Their burger-sized caps are grilling perfection.

A wide range of wild or specialty mushrooms like oyster, maitake, shiitake, and enoki are now available. They tend to take longer to grow or have shorter growing seasons and require more hands-on treatment. They also tend to cost more due to their special handling. Flavors of these varieties range from mild to meaty and earthy; each variety has a unique flavor and nutrient profile.  

Cooking Tips

To rinse or not to rinse? If you rinse mushrooms or gently brush the dirt off them (with a special mushroom-shaped brush, of course!) entirely depends on the type of chef that you are. Either way works. Mushrooms have a high water content and rinsing them is quick, but does alter their outer skin; you can feel them become a bit waterlogged. This will impact how they act in the process of cooking. Brushing them off is ideal and maintains their outer layer, but either way you clean your mushrooms, their musky flavor remains.

Toadstools (another name for mushrooms) are versatile in the kitchen and can be sautéed in hot oil until their liquid releases and then evaporates in the pan, or marinated and grilled. Stir-fries are quick, breading or stuffing mushrooms then baking them helps them retain their shape and rich flavor, and roasting them with vegetables emphasizes their sweetness. Dried mushrooms, when reconstituted, can add deep, rich flavor to soups and sauces. Eating mushrooms raw is not recommended because their cells walls require cooking to break them down so they are digestible.

Here is a small collection of my favorite nutrient-dense ways to enjoy a variety of mycological marvels for breakfast, lunch or dinner this fall. You can substitute any mushroom for any other in these recipes, though your end result will also change. Enjoy!

Oyster Mushroom Breakfast Hash

Poaching an egg over vegetables is a warm and hearty way to begin the day.
Serves 2 (30 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to cook)

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 small red potatoes, cut into 4 quarters
1/2 yellow onion, sliced and cubed
1/2 red red pepper, cut into cubes
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves (2 Tbsp if using dried)
1 cup oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large skillet saute potatoes for 5 minutes over medium heat, then add onions and continue to saute until potatoes are soft and onions translucent.
  2. Add in red pepper and mushrooms. Saute for a few more minutes to mix and warm. Top with thyme.
  3. Crack an egg in each of four corners of the skillet over the vegetable mix. Cover for 3 or 4 minutes to allow the eggs to cook to your desired hardness. Top with salt and pepper, and serve warm.

 


 

Annie’s Hungarian-inspired Mushroom Soup

Dill and sour cream bring out the rich sweet flavor of mushrooms and turnip.
Serves 4 (30 minutes to prep, 60-70 minutes to cook)

Ingredients
16-oz package mushrooms (crimini or white button)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large carrots, cubed (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1/2 yellow onion, cubed
1/2 medium yellow turnip, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
About 1 cup fresh dill, chopped
About 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp grass-fed yogurt or sour cream

Directions

  1. Cube carrots, clean and slice mushrooms, and cube turnip, discarding any waxy covering it may have.
  2. In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add the veggies to the pot and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Add stock and simmer 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, chop herbs.
  5. Add herbs and yogurt or sour cream. If you’d like a smoother textured soup, cool and run through a blender or use a hand-blender.

 


 

Mushroom Pate

Here is my variation on mushroom pate. Warning: it’s hard to stop eating once you begin!
Serves 8 for appetizers (30 minutes to prep, 1 hour to cook plus time to cool)

Ingredients
4 Tbsp organic butter
3 cups onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (about 6 cups, any variety), coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 to 2 tsp dry mustard
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 bread loaf pans with nonstick spray.
  2. Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mushrooms, salt, and mustard. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle in the walnuts and wheat germ, stirring as you go. The wheat germ and walnuts both provide texture and a serious nutritional boost of omega-3 fats and other nutrients. Cook for about 2 minutes longer, then remove from heat.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, and add the cream cheese, dill, and thyme. Purée until smooth, then add black pepper and cayenne to taste.
  6. Divide the mixture between the 2 loaf pans, and spread mixture evenly. Lightly dust the tops with paprika, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour in the center of the oven.
  7. Allow the pate to cool in the pans for 30 minutes (or chill several hours or overnight) before removing from the pans.
  8. Serve cold with crackers, and alongside olives, cornichon pickles and crudité. This also makes a great sandwich spread.

 


 

Brown Rice Curry Bowl With Tofu, Shiitakes And Chard

Having a bit of cooked rice or any whole grain in the fridge make this bowl a snap.
Serves 3-4 (30 minutes to prep, 30-45 minutes to cook)

Ingredients
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp sesame oil, divided
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. tofu, cubed
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cups Swiss chard, sliced
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a small pot, lightly toast brown rice in 1 Tbsp sesame oil, then add water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then lower heat to low and simmer until rice is done.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk remaining oil, pepper, ginger, and garlic in a large bowl. Add mushrooms, onion, and tofu and toss to coat. Spread this mixture on a rimmed baking dish and roast, tossing once halfway through and adding in the chard, until lightly browned and tender, 20-35 minutes.
  4. Mix yogurt, lemon juice, curry, and hoisin. Divide this mixture into 3-4 serving bowls. Top with rice, then with tofu mixture. Top with cilantro and enjoy.

 


 

Wild Mushroom Ragout-Sauce

Here’s an easy delicious sauce for pasta, polenta or roasted vegetables.
Serves 2 (20 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to cook)

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups mixed wild mushrooms
1 medium potato, diced
2 Tbsp miso paste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup red wine

Directions

  1. In a large heavy skillet, saute onions in oil over medium heat until translucent.
  2. Add thyme, mushrooms, and potato and saute until potatoes are soft.
  3. Stir in miso, tomato paste, wine and salt. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, and serve over pasta, grain or on cooked vegetables.

Annie B Kay, MS, RDN, E-RYT500, C-IAYT is an integrative dietitian, yoga therapist and shamanic plant alchemist, who directs programs and retreats at Kripalu and internationally. She has a telehealth private practice in Western MA. www.anniebkay.com

See also:
A Kitchen Ecology Of Health Resilience
How To Grow Oyster Mushrooms At Home (And Get Plenty Of Flavor And Protein For Free)

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 11, 2019

Full Moon fever is on in full force. Loving Venus is conjunct sober Saturn early this morning. Partnerships face critical scrutiny. The shine on some relationships may be tarnished. Actions speak louder than words. It could be time to change the rules…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Show More...
Show Less...

What is a vigorous yoga practice, and who can benefit from it? With Marissa McAleer and Julie Rost This workshop will explore a more physical practice of yoga and how it can be used to...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

The Wellness Roundtable Holistic Practitioners Network creates an environment for wellness practitioners to inspire, educate and support one another, while building community and encouraging...

Cost: $20 (Drop-ins are welcome)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman St
#108B
Westborough, MA
View map »


Sponsor: 01581
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

How would it feel to have direct education on changing your feelings so you do start to ask for what you truly want? Each month, come and practice hands-on skills to get into the habit of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The nights of December fall dark and early. Homes are filled with warm firelight and flickering candle glow. As the year draws to a close, pause under the peaceful light of December’s Full...

Cost: $10–15 suggested donation

Where:
A Touch of Magick
195 S Main Street
Uxbridge, MA
View map »


Telephone: (508) 779-7386
Website »

More information

Sound baths provide an opportunity to relax and journey into a healing, meditative and rejuvenating state. There is nothing you need to do, know or believe. Join us for a powerful, yet casual...

Cost: $25

Where:
Moth & Moon Studio
173 South River Rd
Suite #4
Bedford, NH  03110
View map »


Sponsor: Jeffrey Charles Warren
Contact Name: Jeffrey Warren
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Multi-skilled, and varied holistic practitioner group in Lincoln Area / Metro-West Boston welcomes new practitioner-members. Open invitation to any local practitioner, teacher, researcher,...

Cost: Free, or $5-$15

Where:
Member-homes/offices
Lincoln, MA  01773-4107


Sponsor: Lincoln Area Wellness Collaborative
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This is a class that will teach you how to make your own wire-wrapped gemstone pendant! Don’t be discouraged—it is simpler than you think, and you’ll have great fun in crafting...

Cost: $40 per person or $35 more than one, includes supplies

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags