Delicious, poisonous, deadly but magical. They have been called many different names throughout history and rightfully so. After all, lots of people are poisoned by mushrooms every year. As you know, most of the cute mushrooms that look like the Smurfs’ village are not edible, but are actually extremely poisonous. The number of poisoning cases have increased in recent years due to the growing interest in a natural diet and mushroom foraging. For this reason, before we get to the health benefits of wild mushrooms, we must say that they should be collected with or by someone who knows what they’re doing. We must also remind you that many poisonous mushrooms resemble edible ones.
Technically, a mushroom is neither a vegetable nor a herb. The mushroom is an incredible organism that doesn’t need light or soil, varies significantly depending on where it is found in the world and grows naturally but can also be artificially produced.
According to the 2018 food trends announced by the retail chain Wholefoods, there will be a growing interest in mushrooms in the coming years. One of the reasons is the mushroom’s health benefits. Mushrooms have been consumed for this very same reason for thousands of years. It is also used as a raw material in many medicines. Mushrooms are known to strengthen the immune system and they contain dozens of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are a great source of vitamins B and D as well as selenium and potassium. They do not contain cholesterol, gluten or fat and are also low in calories. In the future, mushrooms will not just be used in dishes but also in tea, coffee and shakes. Mushroom extract and powder will also become more popular.
Aside from their obvious super powers, mushrooms are also delicious. Due to its glutamate content, mushroom is rich in umami, which is described as the fifth taste. This taste is what gives mushrooms their complicated flavour, their suitability as a meat substitute in some dishes and their ability to add a characteristic depth to meals.
Mushrooms are useful not just to us but also to the forest and natural environment where they grow. The mycelium, a veins which grow underground, is a part of mushrooms we can’t see and serves a vital role for the forest. There is a mutual relationship between mushrooms and plants in the forest. Mushrooms make it easy for trees to absorb water and nutrients. Some mushrooms help to break down dead trees and plants. Lots of animals living in the forest also eat the mushrooms.
If you bought or collected mushrooms, how should you store them? If you are not going to eat them right away, wrap them in a paper bag to allow air to circulate and preserve the moisture, and store in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Another delicious idea is to dry your mushrooms. You can store them for months and even years after baking them at low temperatures. You can rehydrate them at any time by soaking them in water. Dried mushrooms are much more flavoursome and nutritious than fresh mushrooms.
Do not wash mushrooms unless absolutely necessary. The best method is to clean them using a slightly damp cloth or paper towel. If you want to wash them, rinse them under water but don’t soak them. Don’t throw away the stems, you can use them for soups and sauces.
If you’re going to cook them in the oven, remember that mushrooms have a high water content. Wild mushrooms have a lower water content than cultivated mushrooms but you still need to be careful if you want to roast them. For this reason, you should use a high heat, not a low heat, when cooking mushrooms. Firstly, make sure that the pan you are using is extremely hot. Then, heat the oil so that your mushrooms sizzle when they touch the pan. When sautéing, make sure that there is plenty of room in the pan; don’t cram the mushrooms together. This allows quicker evaporation of the water released by your mushrooms, preventing them from getting watery and losing their texture.
Mushrooms typically pair well with ingredients such as garlic, thyme and parsley. 17. The “duxelles” recipe that the 17th century French chef La Varenne dedicated to his master Marquis d’Uxelles is a combination of these ingredients. In this recipe, finely chopped onions, mushrooms, parsley and butter are used to make a mixture. It is best spooned over slices of bread, used as a stuffing for pies or added to omelettes.
Apart from these classics, just like any other ingredient, mushrooms pair best with what is in season. For example, chestnuts. The Italians add mushrooms to tagliatelle, which is made from chestnut flour, to balance the sweet flavour of the chestnuts. Along with thyme and parsley, tarragon is another herb that goes well with mushrooms. Make sure to add fresh tarragon to your cream of mushroom soup. Another ingredient that pairs well with mushrooms is cheese. Whether fresh or aged, cheese is just what you need to add balance with the only thing that mushrooms lack: salt.