On top of their wonderful earthy flavor and meaty texture, mushrooms of all varieties provide excellent nutrition. In recent years, consumption of commercially grown mushrooms in the U.S. has been in the 750 million pound range. From soups and salads to sandwiches and entrees, nutritious mushrooms are popular worldwide.
Although extremely common today, mushrooms in the past have been more popular used medicinally. Egyptian Pharaohs reserved mushrooms for themselves, forbidding the commoners to eat them, and the Romans passed laws declaring mushrooms as “Food of the Gods”.
The nutrition in mushrooms varies because of the numerous varieties—up to 14,000! A one cup serving has approximately 15-20 calories, less than one gram of fat, no cholesterol, 2 grams total carbohydrate, 4 grams of sodium, and 3 grams of protein. All this adds up to a very waist friendly, yet nutritious food.
What are the Health Benefits of Mushrooms?
All mushrooms are loaded with essential nutrients—and they are the only fruit or vegetable that contains the important Vitamin D. So is a mushroom a fruit or a vegetable? According to Wikipedia it is “the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus.” Just in case you’re ever on Jeopardy!
Mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants in general, such as polyphenols and selenium. They are very good sources of B vitamins, including B-1, B-6, niacin, and a good source of folic acid, which is involved in the proper function of red blood cells.
A study published by the American Society for Nutrition found that white button mushrooms promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells, protecting and repairing the body’s tissues.
Some common types of Mushrooms:
White button—this is the most common mushroom seen at the grocery store. They have an amazing nutrient content and, in addition, white button mushroom extract has been found to reduce the size of some cancer tumors and slow down the production of some cancer cells. It is most prominently linked to reducing the risk of breast and prostate cancer. They are best used sliced in salads, as a part of a kabob, stuffed, or sautéed in a vegetable medley.
Crimini—similar in appearance to white button mushrooms, but with a darker coffee color, deeper flavor and greater nutrient density. Because they are more dense they’re often used in soups and stews.
Enoki—Popular in oriental cuisine, the enoki is known for its crisp, light texture, similar to that of a bean sprout. They’ll stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in a paper bag.
Oyster—the oyster is sweet tasting and versatile. They can be used as a subtle flavoring and you can use the entire stem, which makes them a good buy. They make a good addition to rice dishes and stuffing.
Porcini—Porcini mushrooms are considered a gourmet food, and their price reflects that. Their hearty, nutty taste is a welcome addition to many dishes, such as risotto. Dried porcini mushrooms are more readily available, and add a strong flavor to pasta, soups, and sauces.
Portobello—Portobello’s are popping up on menus everywhere. They’re large and meaty, making them suited to be served as entrees. If you haven’t tried a grilled portobello sandwich I strongly suggest you do.
Shiitake—also known as the Chinese black mushroom, dried Shiitake mushrooms have a wonderful smoky flavor and a meaty texture. They are one of the most culinary versatile mushrooms. You need to reconstitute them first by steeping them in warm water/broth for about 30 minutes or by added them to a simmering liquid 10-15 minutes before serving. The flavorful soaking liquid can then be strained for addition to soups and sauces.
Truffle—Truffles are a rare delicacy indeed, and can cost up to $450 a pound…so if you ever have the opportunity, take advantage of it. Truffles grow in Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa, but the most desirable ones are white truffles from Italy and black truffles from the southwest of France.
I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten any of your favorite mushrooms, but I hope that you are inspired to experiment with the wonderful, nutritious and delicious fungi available.
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe
I hope you enjoy this week’s recipe for mouthwatering crab stuffed mushrooms. It makes the perfect appetizer, but you’ll probably need a double batch.