The word mushroom is a generic term, meaning the “head” of any fungus, but in everyday use we commonly mean an edible mushroom, and more specifically Agaricus bisporus, which is the mushroom that we eat most often because it is the one that’s most widely cultivated among the possibly hundreds of edible fungi.
Mushrooms are delicious on their own and they make a good substitute for meat because of their similar texture. What’s perhaps even better, is that they can add a wonderful flavor to any dish they’re used in. Then, of course, there are truffles, a type of mushroom/fungi which are the food equivalent of diamonds.
Mushrooms are among the healthiest foods out there although a word of caution is in order: it’s important to take care where they are grown because due to their nature they suck up not just nutrients from the soil but also any toxic substances. So, before you go on a mushroom-picking adventure, check if the area is not over polluted, or just stick with cultivated mushrooms.
The average cultivated mushroom is packed with B-group vitamins — substances that play a star role in food metabolism, the health of the nervous system, and the production of red blood cells. It’s also rich in minerals, and minerals play a role that is just as important for the proper functioning of our internal systems. To top it all off, mushrooms are really low in calories — with just 20 cals in an average serving of five mushrooms. If you want to learn more about what makes mushrooms so great, click here.
Mushrooms combine the health and taste benefits of veggies and meat alike, so they can be combined with and substitute for either. Anything from salads to soups to sauces and main courses are the mushrooms’ playing field. You can even find desserts with mushrooms! Check out these recommended recipes >>
Creamy Vegetarian Lentil-Mushroom Soup
Spinach Mushroom Quiche
Candy Cap Icebox Pie
Preps & Cooking Tips
Though washing is a must with mushrooms, you should never soak them in water because they are like sponges and will absorb quite a lot of it. Just brush them under the running faucet until you remove all traces of soil and debris, and you’re done.
One tip to use when sautéing stewing mushrooms is the use of quality fat — mushrooms soak it in as much as they soak water. If you’re using dry mushrooms, you will need to soak these in water, so they release their flavor. By the way, keep the water and use it instead of stock.
Shopping & Storage
Mushrooms have a short shelf life, and it would be best to cook them on the day you buy them, to make sure they are as fresh as possible. You can still store them for a couple of days, in a fridge, but that’s about it, because they continue to ripen there as well. Some mushrooms can survive for up to a week, but for longer storage time, you’d better freeze or dry them. One important thing you need to know about fridge storage is that you should put the mushrooms on a shelf, not in the crisper drawer — it’s too humid there for them.
Little (un)Known Facts
We enjoy the mushrooms’ unique taste but do we know where it comes from? It comes from umami — the savory flavor that has been recognized as the fifth taste, besides sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. And here’s another fun fact: ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms were the plant of immortality. Maybe because of the way they can be “revived” in water.