But what do you really know about mushrooms?
Mushrooms are often included in recipes because they add flavor and texture to dishes in many different types of cuisine. A mushroom is clearly not an animal. Is it a plant? Or maybe a bacterium? Here are a few facts about mushrooms, where they are found, how they grow, and why you should include them in your everyday cooking.
Mushrooms Are a Fungus
A mushroom is defined as a fruiting body of a fungus. Although that may not sound appetizing, mushrooms have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. They grow in dark, moist places, generally in shaded forest areas. They get their nutrition from decaying matter that is found in these environments. They are a type of fungus different from mold and mildew and can be used as food, providing rich flavor and a number of nutrients when used in cooking.
Mushrooms Can Reproduce Sexually and Non-Sexually
When spores from one mushroom fungus find a spore from another mushroom they can reproduce, creating more mushrooms. However, mushrooms can also reproduce on their own by creating a “bud” that develops into a copy of the original mushroom.
Mushrooms Aren’t Plants and Can’t Photosynthesize
Unlike plants, mushrooms can’t produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis. They must take in nutrients from outside their own structures, such as from plant matter, animal waste, and organic carbon.
There Are Many Species of Mushrooms
There are over 10,000 different types of mushrooms that can be found in various types of environments. Of course, not all mushrooms are edible, nor are they all flavorful. The most popular types of mushrooms for cooking include:
Mushrooms Are Easy to Prepare and Enjoy
Mushrooms need very little preparation time and cook up easily to enhance flavor in dishes and add hearty texture. Each type of mushroom possesses its own flavor, so you can choose from the many kinds that are available to give your cuisine the perfect touch.
Mushrooms Contain A Number of Important Nutrients
Mushrooms contain several nutrients that make them a valuable addition to your daily diet. They contain B vitamins that support many body processes. They contain vitamin D for bone health and potassium for muscle strength and proper internal fluid balance. Beta glucan in mushrooms supports heart health, and the phytochemicals in mushrooms help recovery from illness and with anti-aging.
Mushrooms Can Substitute for Meat in Your Diet
You can use mushrooms as a substitute for meat in many dishes to save money, lower calories, or reduce your meat consumption. The best types of mushrooms to use for substituting meat include Portobello for a meaty texture, shiitake for intense umami flavor, or white button for a neutral, buttery flavor.
Mushrooms Are a Versatile Food That Can Be Used in Many Ways
You may think of mushrooms to complement stews and casseroles, but mushrooms can do so much more. They can be used as a stuffing for meat or vegetable dishes, in pasta sauces, as a topping for grilled meats, as a sandwich filling, as a hearty addition in soups, and for extra flavor and texture in salads.
Consuming Mushrooms Offers Many Health Benefits
Mushrooms have antioxidant properties that help the body resist disease. They boost immune system function and can improve weight loss, prevent diabetes, reduce cholesterol levels, and strengthen bones. Mushrooms also support brain function and concentration, reduce depression, and are believed to have anti-cancer properties.
Only Those Trained in Mushroom Identification Should Collect Them in the Wild
During your walks in the woods, you may notice a variety of tasty-looking mushroom types growing along the way. However, some types of mushrooms are poisonous, and because they are sometimes difficult to identify correctly, unless you’re experienced in identifying mushroom types, you should resist the urge to bring them home to try in your favorite recipes.
Only individuals who have received the proper training from people experienced in mushroom identification should collect these items in the wild to avoid consuming toxic varieties that can be dangerous to health.
Neither a plant, an animal, nor a bacterium, mushrooms occupy a unique place in the food world. They are both interesting and delicious and can be used in many ways. Experiment with the many types of mushrooms to find the ones that most complement your favorite recipes.