Let’s be honest fungus is gross. The fact that fungi grow from “eating” decomposing things-gross. But when it comes to the edible fungi, try not to be turned off so quick.
For me, I’ve always liked mushrooms. Well, at least I think I’ve always liked them because I don’t remember NOT liking them. In fact, I’ve always found it baffling when someone says they don’t like them. They don’t particularly have a weird texture-they aren’t too soft or hard, or gritty or slimy. They don’t actually have any flavor of their own hardly. So I’ve never gotten what the hang up for some people about them is other than the fact they are a fungus and grow in the less than delightful way that fungi grow.
In an attempt to sway you to give them a try, let me throw some mushroom facts at you. Mushrooms are an awesome source of protein (for a “vegetable”) and good sources of vitamin B2 and Zinc, which we never seem to be able to get enough. These little guys offer a fair dose of many types of essential minerals and vitamins. Interestingly, mushrooms are a source of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is believed to cause a real boost to your immune system. Some studies show it helps to fight and ward off infections and improve autoimmune conditions such as lupus and arthritis. It is also the naturally occurring version of monosodium glutamate. This is part of the reason why they help to enhance the flavors of savory foods which with they are cooked.
The main benefit I like to highlight and recommend the increase in your diet for, besides a supplemental protein source for my vegetarian and vegan clients, is the detoxification properties. In the same way that the mushrooms consume that which is decaying while growing, they have the ability to draw up, or absorb, many toxins that are being held in the body. Mushrooms are particularly noted for their blood purifying quality and the ability to help remove undesirable fat in blood, as well as excess mucus in the respiratory system. Certain types of mushrooms have been shown to improve everything from oxygen levels in the blood, to improving blood sugar levels in diabetics, and help treat hypertension.
Some points to remember on choosing and cooking mushrooms:
– Dried mushrooms will have a more intense taste. So if you are looking for no flavor, stick to fresh. 1 ounce of dried is like 8-10 ounces of fresh.
– While eating them raw is not toxic, cooking does eliminate a naturally occurring carcinogen found in mushrooms. So a quick saute may be the best choice.
– The more finely they are sliced/chopped the more of the outside flavor they will absorb. When cooked with other things, mushrooms will take on their flavor(s).
– Mushrooms are one of those very rare foods where it is less critical to buy organic. Typically their contamination levels are super low comparatively. So don’t be afraid to buy whatever you like, or is cheapest.
– And finally, yes there are some wild mushrooms you can eat. But unless you are an expert, leave the foraging to only be done in a grocery store.
There you have it. A quick run down on the marvels of a mushroom. Maybe that’s why the Smurfs like them?