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Monday, February 11, 2013

Mushrooms:


The term "mushroom" derives from the French "mousseron" in reference to moss.  Mushrooms are a low calorie food usually eaten cooked, raw and as garnish to a meal.  Mushrooms are used extensively in many cuisines, notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese.  They are known as the "meat" of the vegetable world.

Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets are commercially grown on mushroom farms.  Dietary mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, and essential minerals selenium, copper, and potassium.  Fat, carbohydrate, and calorie contents are low with absence of vitamin C and sodium.  Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultrviolet light contain large amounts of vitamin D2.  There are approximately 20 caloaries in an ounce of mushrooms.

A number of mushrooms are poisonous although some resemble certain edible species.  Consuming them could be fatal.   Gathering mushrooms in the wild should only be undertaken by persons knowledgeable in mushroom identification.  Everyone else should obtain their mushrooms from the local supermarket or store.

Psilocybin mushrooms possess psychodelic properties.  Commonly called "shrooms", they are openly available in many parts of the world and on the black market in countries that have outlawed their sale.  Psilocybin mushrooms are reported as facilitating profound and life changing insights described as mystical experiences.  They are being studied for their ability to help people suffering from psychological disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Minute amounts have been reported to stop cluster and migrane headaches.

Mycophagy, the act of consuming mushrooms dates back to ancient times.  The first reliable evidence of  consumption of mushrooms dates back several hundred years BC in China.  Chinese value mushrooms for medicinal properties as well as food.  Ancient Romans and Greeks used mushrooms for culinary purposes.

I first remember eating mushrooms in a restaurant with my grandmother and an aunt.  I didn't know what they were and kept asking, "Is this a mushroom?"  I decided I liked mushrooms and have been eating them ever since.  In the store mushrooms used to come wrapped with blue tissue paper in a small wooden basket with a wire handle.    It was kind of distinctive and I always thought the basket would be good as a picnic basket.

Over 20 species of mushrooms are commerically cultivated.  The six most common are Chanterelle, prized for its fruity aroma; White, the most common and the mildest flavor;  Oyster, velvety trumpet shaped with a peppery taset.  The smallest are the best.  Portobello, up to 6 inches across with a steak-like taste.  Remove the woody stems before eating.  Shitake, meat to dark brown umbrella like caps with a distinctive smoky flavor.  The stems are too tough to eat but can be used for flavoring then discarded.  Cremini, similar to the white but with a firm texture and deeper flavor.  They are immature portobellos.

Choose firm unblemished mushrooms with a tight underside.  Keep mushrooms in either plastic or paper bags.  Plastic should have a few holes to allow some air to circulate.  You can rinse dirty mushrooms,  but usually a good wipe with a damp paper towl will do. 

You can bake, broil, fry, grill, puree, saute, steam or just eat raw.  Mushrooms go with just about anything.

So eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.