Product Spotlight: Mushrooms Abound!
MUSHROOMS ARE THE FOOD OF THE GODS
By Pam Turczyn
Mushrooms are the food of the gods is a Greek proverb that holds universal truth. Just imagining a skillet full of sliced mushrooms sizzling in olive oil and garlic can make your mouth water. Mmmmmm….sprinkle them on pizza, avocado toast, salad or soup and an ordinary meal becomes special. Not only are mushrooms flavorful, aromatic and low in calories, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein, many of the basics we need to maintain our bodies.
In addition to doing a lot for our individual health and well being, some say mushrooms could help save the planet. Really!? Mushroom guru, Paul Stametz says, “Oyster mushrooms will not only break down petroleum-based contaminants; they will also capture and eat E. coli…” Wow! And, he is finding ways mushrooms can heal clear-cut or burned forests. Mushrooms have also been used to make breathable faux leather, natural pesticides, medicines, building materials, furniture and a host of other products.
The Co-op carries a wide variety of these beauties, both fresh and dried, to eat now.They can be used in many ways to add deep umami flavoring to your meals. And, pssst: word on the street is that mushroom broth is “the new bone broth” and shares similar benefits, including healing the gut, boosting the immune system and remineralizing the body!
Fresh mushroom tips
They are happier stored in paper bags than in plastic, where they will get moldy.
They are very absorbent so some care needs to be taken. Those in the know shun rinsing them in water, preferring to brush off stray particles of dirt. Never soak them in water.
Most varieties have woody stems that should be removed. They could be reserved to make broth.
Raw mushrooms are difficult to digest because of their tough cell walls. They also contain small amounts of toxins which are rendered harmless by cooking.
If you are working in the Co-op, please refrain from spraying them as they will quickly mold!
TYPES OF MUSHROOMS AT OUR CO-OP
The list is arranged in order from the inexpensive, familiar culinary mushrooms to the less familiar super mushrooms that possess outstanding culinary and medicinal properties.
Please note that all prices listed below are based on February, 2019 data. Prices and availability are subject to change, so always check the price list posted in our produce section.
Fresh organic mushrooms
White Button: $2.95/pound. America’s most popular mushroom, the White Button (Agaricus Bosporus) is mild, tasty, versatile and nutritious. As with all mushrooms, it is best to cook (steaming, stir-frying, simmering in broths) before eating.
Sliced White: $2.15 each. Convenient for busy people but the packaging makes it less sustainable than buying loose mushrooms. The tray can be recycled but, sadly, cling wrap cannot be recycled with other plastics (take it to Target to be recycled with plastic bags!).
Cremini: $3.16/pound. Guess what? Sometimes called Baby Bella, these are also Agaricus Bosporus! Cremini are a little more mature--meaning they’ve been allowed to grow longer-- than the White Buttons and thus have a deeper mushroom flavor.
Portobello: inexpensive at $5.19/pound and so tasty! These giants are fully mature Agaricus Bosporus.Take advantage of the large size and meaty flavor by grilling, broiling or pan searing as a vegan burger or stuffing them with a filling.
Oyster: $8.80/pound. A delicacy found in several Asian cuisines, Oyster mushrooms have a mild flavor, velvety texture and are added to soups or stir-fries just before turning off the heat, as they cook quickly. Oyster mushrooms may help lower cholesterol, boost the immune system to fight cancer and have an anti-tumor effect. Read more about that here: Interestingly, this variety of mushroom is used for mycorestoration, cleaning up oil spills or mercury from soil.
Shiitake: $9.36/pound. Featuring a delicate, sophisticated flavor when fresh, be sure to remove the stem before cooking. A popular method of preparation in Japan is to score an X on the mushroom cap and grill or stir fry, adding a touch of soy sauce at the end. According to Dr. Mercola, Shiitake have a multitude of superpowers, from being antiviral/antibacterial to relieving stomach ailments and lowering cholesterol. Read the whole list of health benefits here.
Royal Trumpet: $12.81/pound. Characterized by a firm texture and savory flavor, they can be prepared using many different methods and have a long shelf life. The entire mushroom can be used, unlike many other species. Try slicing it into thick medallions and pan searing as a vegan sea scallop dish.
Beech: $14/pound. Known as shimeji in Japan, these mushrooms must be cooked as they are somewhat bitter and difficult to digest when raw. The stem is edible; you need only to cut off the very end. When cooked, they have a delicious nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture. Miso soup with shimeji is a favorite at my house.
Maitake: $15/pound Aromatic, with a slightly crunchy texture, they are also known as Hen-of-the-Woods. Try cutting a clump in half through the stem and pan searing until crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Drizzle with garlic infused oil. This mushroom has long been used in Japanese and Chinese Traditional Medicine. Dr. Andrew Weil discusses Maitake’s surprising medicinal properties here.
Dried Mushrooms Tips
Dried mushrooms have more concentrated flavor than fresh and have a chewy texture when rehydrated.
Nutritional benefits are not lost in the drying process
Chefs love them for their long shelf life and for making wild mushrooms available year round, not only when in season.
Most varieties should be soaked for about half an hour in room temperature water.
The soaking water may have bits of dirt, so should be strained or carefully poured off, then used for sauces, soups or flavoring grains.
Dried Organic Mushrooms
Wild Mushroom Medley: $3.50/ounce in the bulk section. A mixture of Oyster, Wood Ear, Shiitake and King Oyster mushrooms. As you might guess from its name, Wood Ear is an ear-shaped fungus that grows on wood. It has a mild flavor, crunchy texture and is used in Chinese dishes, including hot and sour soup. Wikipedia says it has been used medicinally both in the East and in the West, including Ghana, in both traditional folk medicine and modern pharmacology. The applications are far ranging, from treating sore throats to lowering cholesterol. For more information, click here.
In Packages from Fungus Among Us
Shiitake: $4.69/half-ounce. A staple in Chinese or Japanese cuisine, dried Shiitake have a much deeper flavor than fresh and are ideally soaked overnight in water for use in soups or stir fries. Cut off the stems and discard. The caps can be used whole or cut into slices or chunks. Simmer in the soaking water until the mushrooms are thoroughly softened, about 20 minutes.
Medley: $4.69/half-ounce. A combination of Porcini, Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms that “offers a complexity of flavors, colors and textures.”
Porcini: $4.69/half-ounce. Ah, Porcini! I have fond memories of living in Umbria and having big, juicy slabs of fresh porcini in pasta ai funghi during the autumn season. But dried porcini are equally amazing! Soak in room temperature water for at least 20 minutes before using them in stews, sauces or any dish requiring a very deep, almost beefy flavor. Use the liquor as a substitute for beef broth for risotto or French onion soup. The softened mushrooms can be used in the same ways as fresh.