All About Mushrooms
Oct. 29, 2016
- Mushrooms are not technically plants and therefore officially do not contain phytonutrients (plant nutrients.)
- Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber.
- They are a good source of B-vitamins (riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin), iron, and selenium.
- Mushrooms contain your entire daily value of vitamin D.
- Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium (a 3 ounce portabello cap has more potassium than a banana).
- Furthermore, they have essentially no fat and no cholesterol.
- Ergothioneine is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which mushrooms have in very high concentrations. Cooking actually releases this powerful nutrient from the mushroom cells.
- Mushrooms also have high levels of polyphenols that give them a higher antioxidant level than green pepper and zucchini.
How to Prepare
- When choosing loose mushrooms at the market, look for dry mushrooms with smooth caps, firm gills, and a fresh aroma.
- Don’t soak the mushrooms in water. They are very porous and will absorb water quickly. Absorbing too much water will alter their flavor and texture.
- Some argue that you shouldn’t use water to clean mushrooms, but a quick rinse and a wipe with a damp cloth will clean them up quickly. A purist would simply brush the mushrooms gently, but this takes more time and effort.
- Don’t peel them.
- Cut off the firm, dark areas of the stems.
- Since mushrooms have thick cell walls that break down with cooking, cooking unlocks more nutrients and safely degrades any trace amount of a potentially carcinogenic compound called agaritine.
Grocery Store Mushroom Varieties
Creminis, also sold as baby portabellas, are just a more mature white button mushroom. They are similar in shape, maybe slightly bigger in size, but one discernable difference is their color: creminis are a light shade of brown. They are a mild mushroom in flavor, and make a great substitute for white buttons in your favorite recipes as they add a deeper flavor.
This mushroom is the most mature stage of the white button mushroom, with its cap fully grown out. The portabella is mild in flavor, but has a meaty texture. It works great as a substitute for meat in certain dishes, and is particularly delectable when grilled.
Shiitake mushrooms grow mainly in Japan, China and Korea. They are savory and meaty, and add an umami flavor to dishes. Shiitakes can be used to top meat dishes and to enhance soups and sauces. And if you can’t find the shiitake at your supermarket but still want the flavor, look for it in powder form.
Oysters are one of the more intimidating mushrooms in appearance, since they look nothing like the common button mushroom. They are simple to prepare and offer a delicate and sweet flavor. This mushroom can be easily cultivated, making it one of the more affordable mushroom varieties.
Enoki mushrooms can be found in the grocery store during the cooler season, usually in a plastic package filled with the long, thin, white stems with tiny white caps on top. The fruiting bodies have orally active anticancer properties and are commonly cooked as food. They are mild in taste and crunchy in texture. Trim roots at base before using and before serving them, separate the stems.
Known as maitake in Japan and nicknamed “Hen-of-the-Woods”, grow at the base of oak trees and can grow to be 1 yard in diameter. It has a distinctive aroma and rich, woody taste. To cook, lightly sauté in butter or oil. For a richer taste in any recipe, use maiitakes. It can be a main dish ingredient or in side dishes and soup.