A recent walk in the woods yielded a brilliant treasure. Attached to the trunk of a dead tree was a giant mushroom. It was splashed with colors of yellow and orange and fanned out in layers resembling firm giant petals. We delicately removed it from the tree trunk and carefully carried it home. Research on the internet and a consult with a mushroom foraging expert confirmed it was a Chicken of the Woods, considered a delicacy in the food world.
After photographing our find for posterity and Instagram we sliced it into thin strips and sautéed them in olive oil with a little salt, pepper and Slap Ya Mama spice. Our magnificent mushroom revealed a nutty taste and meaty texture. Yes, it tasted a bit like chicken.
I am mad for mushrooms, whether for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sliced, diced, roasted, sautéed, grilled in kebobs or crunchy in a light tempura batter or nut crust. I lust for fresh Chanterelles and Morels in season, savor the flavors of Enokis, Oysters and Shiitakes in Asian dishes and fish and substitute earthy Creminis and Portobellos for meat dishes. On the rare occasion I can locate a Hen of the Woods (Maitake), much less the Chicken version, it’s swoon-worthy. I’ll even take mild mainstream white buttons (the white bread of mushrooms) which can be transformed from bland to grand with the right accompaniments and spices. The only mushroom I don’t like is a poisonous one.
I’ve had mycology on my mind after our fabulous forest find. “Let’s take up foraging,” I mentioned to David. A sigh and then silence usually means “Here she goes again….”
I’ve never foraged for wild mushrooms out of concern I’d pick the wrong ones. And I made damn sure David chewed and swallowed a few of those Chicken of the Woods before I dove in with my fork. “Death by Mushroom” isn’t how I want my obituary to read. You should always buy wild mushrooms from a knowledgeable and reliable source unless you are an experienced forager. Meanwhile, I did some foraging about mushrooms on the internet. September happens to be National Mushroom Month. (For those of you not rabidly following the food and drink world, there is an official day or month for almost anything edible or drinkable).
Mushrooms are categorized as a fungus (plural: fungi), even though they are usually grouped with vegetables. The fungi family is defined as “a group of related plants such as molds, mushrooms, or yeasts that have no flowers and that live on dead or decaying things.”
Fungus and mold are usually associated with unhealthy things like Athlete’s foot and allergies, But mushrooms are good for you. They are loaded with nutrients such as essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and digestive enzymes, low in calories and sodium, and are fat and cholesterol free as well as gluten free. You can read up on the nutritional benefits of mushrooms at this Mushroom Council link
Mushrooms have reported health benefits from helping to inhibit cancer cell growth, boost immunity, fight inflammation, strengthen cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels in diabetics, help boost brain function and contribute to weight loss by increasing satiety. You can read more about health benefits in this article in “Medical News Daily.” Medical News Today.
The benefits of mushrooms have become so vast there’s even a Mushroom Health Summit where scientists, educators and mycologists come together to share information. It’s like a Mushroom Mashup. Medicinal mushrooms and mushroom extracts have been used for centuries in ancient Eastern treatments and in both modern integrative medicine and biotechnology today.
And that’s not all…this weekend my facialist gave me an anti aging mushroom enzyme masque claiming her mushroom “brew” is rich in antioxidants that help stimulate collagen and help reduce brown spots. That’s my idea of magic mushrooms.
Speaking of magic, there are also a type of funky fungi called Psilocybin mushrooms (a.k.a. psychedelic mushrooms). But that’s another story and I do not recommend trying them or drinking the tea.
Ancient Egyptians consider mushrooms a delicacy; the Romans regarded them as a gift from God to enjoy only on special occasions. I consider mushrooms a gift from the earth and dead wood where many grow to enjoy every day in a variety of ways.
Many people toss the stems. That’s a waste. Chop or dice and cook down with vegetable broth, olive oil and a touch of sherry vinegar to make a delicious soup. Large mushroom caps can be stuffed with goat cheese or for non-dairy eaters, chopped nuts, apples and quinoa. Grilled Portobello or mixed mushrooms make a nice vegetarian main or side course. The only thing I enjoy more than a fat, fluffy mushroom stuffed omelet for breakfast or lunch is a mixed grill or sauté of mushrooms, asparagus and tomatoes. You can also drink mushroom tea (mushroom broth) which is also nice for cooking and sautéing or adding to soups and stews. Now I am trying a mushroom powder from a company called Mushroom Matrix to blend into smoothies, breakfast eggs and soups.
So are mushrooms the new kale as this “Daily Beast” article points out? Given that mushrooms have been consumed and used for health and beauty for thousands of years by ancient civilizations from Egypt to Greece to Mexico and Latin America this fungi is no fad. It’s forever fab. So make room for mushrooms in your meals and feel the fungi.
Resources and Information:
Want to learn more about mushrooms and health? Melanie chats with Sandra Carter, Ph.D, MPH, CEO of Mushroom Matrix, on Fearless Fabulous You! September 14 (W4WN (Mondays, 4pmEST live and iHeart Radio anytime). Link to all shows on iHeart: http://www.iheart.com/show/209-Fearless-Fabulous-You
Tweet for the day: Even dead wood can produce amazing things if you keep your eyes open. #fearlessfabulousyou
What’s your favorite mushroom recipe? Please share at Facebook.com/FearlessFabulousMelanie
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