The Magic of Mushrooms

I’ve written about mushrooms before. And shared with you some fascinating mushroom trivia, including a recipe for The.Best.Ever mushroom soup

I have recently found  yet more interesting information about how just good they are for us.

Just about any edible mushroom will provides a healthy dose of nutrients. However, some have super powers.  A recent study conducted at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine tested eleven species of mushroom to determine which varieties possessed the strongest antioxidant properties. Of the 11 species tested, the top 7 mushrooms with the strongest antioxidant constituents are also some of the most nutritionally dense. According to this latest research, these are the 7 mushrooms we should be eating, ranked in order:

1. Porcini

Porcini are a large mushroom, with a cap that can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. Popular in Italian cuisine, porcini mushrooms represent a few different varieties, are typically reddish-brown in color, possess a thick stem, and are slightly sticky to the touch. Here in Adelaide I can only get fresh ones in winter from the Mushroom Man in Central Market. Of course the dried variety is available year round.

2. Golden Oyster

Golden Oyster mushrooms are generally cultivated and apparently good to  grow at home. Personally I have not had any luck with growing mushrooms. It seems they grow in virtually anything, using straw mats and ordinary compost, with mushroom “starters” from inoculation kits that can be purchased in specialty stores. They have a golden hue, grow in clusters, and have a nutty, slightly bitter flavor.

3. Pioppino

Pioppino mushrooms, often called Velvet Pioppino due to the velvety-brown appearance of their small caps, grow on decaying logs or at the mulchy base of hardwood trees. Pioppinos have a mild, slightly peppery flavor, making them a popular choice for adding to recipes. They grow in clusters on long, sturdy stems, are smaller in size (caps are only about 2 centimeters wide), and retain a firm texture when cooked.

4. Oyster – are carnivorous!

Oysters are among the most common and versatile mushrooms. Easy to cultivate, oysters grow mainly on decaying wood and possess a slightly sweet, anise-like smell. Called “oysters” due to having a similar appearance to the sea creature, the mycelia of oyster mushrooms eat small roundworms and bacteria, making them one of the few carnivorous mushroom species. Did you know that? I didn’t. Colors range from green, to pink, to yellow, depending on the variety. Fluted caps span from two-to-eight inches, with white gills on the underside, and a short, stubby stem.

Ever seen one of these? I haven’t

5. Lions mane

It’s easy to see how the Lion’s Mane mushroom got its name! This popular edible and medicinal mushroom has exceptional neuroprotective powers, thanks to its ability to stimulate synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that plays a major role in the maintenance, survival, and regeneration of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Known to improve memory and mood, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are a staple in traditional Chinese medicine, and can be found in supplement form as a powder or tincture in many health food stores. If you’d rather enjoy their meaty texture in a meal, sauté them in butter to intensify the flavor, or boil them as a meat replacement in soup or stew.

6. Maitake

Found in clusters, typically at the base of oak trees, maitake mushrooms have potent anti-cancer properties. A polypore mushroom, maitakes lack the distinctive gills on the underside of the cap. Multiple caps emerge in layers from a single, thick underground stem, and can grow quite large. The entire “fruit body” can weigh 50 pounds or more, with a single cap growing as wide as twelve inches in diameter. Caps range from white to brown, are semi-firm when cooked, and possess a slightly earthy flavor that takes on the taste of your chosen cooking medium. Maitakes have been researched for a variety of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood glucose in rats.

7. Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in the world, and for good reason. Revered in Asia for centuries for their potent medicinal properties, shiitake mushrooms have become a symbol of longevity in some cultures. Hearty and versatile, shiitakes can be consumed raw or cooked, and are found in powdered supplement form in many herbal pharmacies. Shiitakes grow in clusters on decaying hardwood trees, and are also commonly cultivated for food and medicinal uses. A classic umbrella shape, shiitakes are both beautiful and substantial. Caps range from white to light brown with white spots, and can reach up to eight inches in diameter. Cooking releases a “garlic pine” aroma and a rich, earthy flavor. Good luck for us – shiitakes are available year-round in most areas.

Raili Tanska

Eat healthy


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