Mushrooms As Food
Mushrooms are an excellent food source and addition to any diet or menu. Edible mushrooms come in a range of shapes, sizes, textures, colors, flavors, scents, and densities. The Piopinno Mushroom (Agrocybe aegarita), tastes like a porkchop. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms taste like lobster or eggplant. And the Chicken-of-the-Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) tastes like, well, chicken. If you have only ever eaten white Button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), you have most certainly been missing out.
Beyond tasting great, mushrooms are also a very nutritious addition to any cuisine. Mushrooms are by and large high in protein and dietary fiber while being low in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Depending on the food source (substrate) that they were grown on, mushrooms contain varying amounts of trace minerals. Mushrooms also synthesize high quantities of B vitamins and vitamin D (in fact, mushrooms are the only non-animal source of vitamin D), a great benefit for vegetarians and vegans. Other mushrooms contain varying amounts of other essential amino acids and vitamins such as A & K. Advanced cultivation research aims at developing specific substrate formulas of agricultural waste products to produce mushrooms with nutrient profiles that fulfill the specific needs and deficiencies of people in developing nations. So cool!
Whatever your reason for eating mushrooms, do note that you must cook your mushrooms prior to consumption. The cell walls of fungi are comprised of chitin, a compound that is indigestible to humans and must be broken down with heat. Recipes for cooking mushrooms abound, especially in Asian cuisines. A good rule of thumb however is to first dry saute your mushrooms in a skillet to cook off the high amount of water in the tissue. This not only makes the mushroom less watery and thin textured, it also concentrates and enhances the flavor of the mushroom. Once the water has cooked off, add your favorite high temperature oil and prepare as desired.
Lastly, if you are not planning to eat your mushrooms right away, they do store rather well. Drying works well to store most mushrooms long term. Some firm-textured species stand up to pickling. And old, funky wild mushrooms or the firm stalks of Oysters or Shiitake mushrooms can be used to make a delicious and healthy soup stock. On all fronts, mushrooms make a great addition to any pantry or palate for those interested in food sovereignty and healthy eating.
Cultivating Edible Mushrooms
Growing the edible mushrooms follows the principles and practices found on our Cultivation 101 page. Learning this practice is incredibly empowering and a life skill for those interested growing and eating nutritious foods. Mushrooms can be grown off almost any agricultural waste, thereby creating food from debris that is often burned in fields or composted. Obtaining a mushroom yield off these resources prior to composting not only extends the value of these crops, but also creates richer compost in the process. Some mushrooms can even be grown off many urban waste products such as coffee grounds and cardboard! While some mushroom species are tricky to get to fruit yields from (such as the notoriously picky Maitake [Grifola frondosa] and slow growing Reishi [Ganoderma lucidum]), many are rather easy to grow once basic techniques and concepts are understood. Really, it is relatively easy to grow the mycelium of most any decomposer species. It is the expensive process of getting a high indoor yield that is a difficult art to perfect. Good beginning cultivator mushrooms include the following:
- Hypsizygus ulmarius (Elm Oyster | Shirotamogitake)
- Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster | Hiratake)
- Pleurotus pulmonarius (Pheonix Oyster | Indian Oyster)
- Stropharia ruggosoannulata (King Stropharia | Garden Giant | Burgandy/Wine Cap |Godzilla Mushroom)
- Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail | Yun Zhi | Kawaratake | Cloud Mushroom)
All of these species grow quite easily and are somewhat forgiving in regards to imperfect technique and all of these species can be grown using the techniques covered in the Radial Mycology publication Mushroom Cultivation for Remediation.