(Image of locally grown Shitake mushrooms)
Yes, they are vegetables!
Mushrooms are botanically classified as fungi; however, in terms of nutrition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers mushrooms to be vegetables because they provide many of the same nutritional attributes as vegetables.
There are many varieties
Examples of mushroom varieties are Button, Swiss Brown, Portobello (which are just overgrown White mushrooms), Shitake, several varieties of Oyster mushrooms, Chestnuts (which are my favorite), Enokitake, and the famous Italian Porcini or Boletus, and, of course, the super expensive Truffles. Black Ear mushrooms are known from Asian soups.
They are super healthy
Nutrients that can be found in meat and grains can also be found in mushrooms. They are a good source of niacin, pantothenic acid, selenium, and copper, providing at least 10% to 19% of the recommended daily allowance. They are an excellent source of riboflavin, providing almost 20% of the recommended daily allowance. They also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Numerous studies show that oyster mushrooms contain compounds that can help reduce high cholesterol. Mushrooms are also a source of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins E, B12, vitamin D, and calcium. The amount of Vitamin D in mushrooms could be increased significantly by exposing them to light. In Asian traditions, mushrooms are regarded as both food and medicine because they can support the body’s natural defenses by enhancing the immune system. The medicinal mushrooms would be Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Shiitake, Cordyceps, and others.
Yes, mushrooms must be cooked!
Mushrooms have very tough cell walls and are essentially indigestible if you don’t cook them. Raw mushrooms are largely indigestible because of their tough cell walls, mainly composed of chitin. Dr. Andrew Weil advises, in agreement with other experts, that mushrooms must be cooked! Also, all of their nutrients are released through cooking.
Mushrooms picking is a recreation in Europe!
Mushrooms picking is a national pastime in Europe. Mushroom yielding locations are a family secret and passed on to the next generations. It is also a popular sport in the Pacific Northwest with a large Asian population and good mushroom-bearing forests. However, it is virtually unknown or even illegal to pick mushrooms in the rest of the US. (As described in detail in the book Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone.) If you are looking for exotic varieties of mushrooms in our area, besides the white button mushrooms found in most grocery stores, farmers’ markets are your best bet. There are some great farmers organically growing amazing mushrooms in our area.
Mushroom soup many ways
In my home, we love mushrooms since we grew up picking them all summer and fall and eating them. It took me a while to perfect cooking mushroom soup. I learned that the key is to let the mushrooms sear at the beginning of the cooking by not stirring them too much.
1lb of mushrooms (fresh or reconstituted dry, or pickled in a jar). The more varieties the better
1 leek (make sure it is washed properly as it contains sand. See my Vichyssoise recipe)
OR 1 onion diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
4 tbs of butter
Celery root (available mostly in the winter) or 3 celery ribs
Parsley root (if available, not to be confused with parsnip root, but could be used as well)
3 bay leaves
Fresh or dried thyme
5+ cups of chicken stock or bone broth
½ cup of cream (if desired)
Potatoes are not necessary but make soup thicker if you decide to blend it
Instead of potatoes one could use long grain wild (black) rice
1 tbs of Port wine or molasses to add to finished soup
Cut up mushrooms (but leave few larger uncut pieces. They still need to be cooked, however). Sauté mushrooms until they are brown, but not burnt. The key to tasty and fragrant soup is to let the mushrooms sear at the beginning of the cooking by not stirring them too much. Add onions and leek and let them cook till they look glossy. Add other cut up vegetables and spices. Cook slowly for 30-45 minutes.
There are many ways to “finish” the mushroom soup. If I have a jar of pickled mushrooms, I add a little bit of vinegar and the pickled mushrooms to make the soup sour, or I could add cream sauce at the end. They can be thickened with roux. (Add cold roux to hot soup or vice versa and cook till the soup thickens and the flour, or other thickening agent, cooks out).
Edible Mushrooms by Barbro Forsberg
Format: print book and Hoopla ebook
Healing Mushrooms by Tero Isokauppila
Format: Hoopla audiobook
Mushrooms and Their Cultivation by T. W. Sanders
Format: Hoopla ebook
The Essential Guide To Cultivating Mushrooms by Stephen Russell
Format: print book and Hoopla ebook
Format: print book
Community Services Librarian
Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
625 Minnesota Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101
913-295-8250 ext 1103