“I hate mushrooms.” I can distinctly recall saying this line more than a few times during my youth. As I picked around even the smallest white spongy specks on my plate I wondered, “why would I eat a piece of fungus that tastes mildly like dirt and squeaks across my teeth when I chew it? Gross !” My mushroom predisposition unfortunately held true until, as a chef, I was literally force fed a mushroom tart. In order to ensure the food I was serving to guests was not going to leave a literal or figurative “bad taste” in their mouths, I swallowed the mouthful of slippery caramelized fungus. Sweet and earthy, still warm from the oven and caramelized to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency with just a hint of salt to contrast the buttery crust it was served in; it was delicious.
When gigantic portabellas, perfectly golden criminis, brushed white buttons and amoeba like shitakes started filling the shelves of our refrigerator, my like minded mushroom-hating boyfriend gawked with disgust. But, as I gradually and successfully sneaked them into delicate cream sauces, home made pizzas and rainbow chard gratins, it went without discussion that mushrooms were becoming a new staple of our mealtimes. Lucky for us, unlike the soft serve ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and home made Italian style doughnuts that have also been know to become unmentioned dietary staples in our house, mushrooms are one of natures best healing foods as well as a culinary delicacy.
Of the over 14,000 varieties of mushrooms about 3,000 of them are edible and over 700 of them have known medicinal properties. Extensive research in health circles around the world has been published about the healing powers of this wondrous fungus. In Chinese medicine mushrooms have been linked to body balance and homeostasis, helping align and strengthen energy and immunity. According to recent medical studies the impact mushrooms have on the immune system not only wards off illness but helps relieve more dramatic immune system ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis. High amounts of Zinc found in most varieties help fortify the immune system, regulate blood sugar, metabolism and inflammatory pain management.
Selenium, essential for the function of antioxidants is also a key nutrient found in mushrooms that contributes to their potent healing qualities. The cooperative work of selenium and vitamin E helps clear the body of harmful free radicals and may contribute to the prevention of age related and degenerative diseases.
Mushrooms are packed with selenium, copper, zinc, potassium, iron, B vitamins and are a conveniently low calorie food that you can consume with complete confidence that every last bite will nourish and heal your body. In addition, mushrooms are one of the rare foods that contain vitamin D, making them a great food to get you through the dreary winter months.
It was a drastic change of heart, you could say, that brought these little tilth dwelling orbs into my highly regarded list of favorites. To the food that has this many nutrients packed tightly into a beautiful natural form with the power to transform health, well-being, longevity and energy, I am sorry for calling you “gross”.
This week I am excited to see local crimini mushrooms as a substitute for the regular contents in my Farm-to-Table box. Not only will I swap them in, I am also ordering a few extra criminis and four large and beautiful portabellas from Full Circle’s Green Grocery program to make a weeks worth of delicious and healthy meals. I am thinking a crimini and leek risotto to start the week and spice rubbed roasted portabella burgers to bring it to a close. Nourishment, flavor and the pure joy of spongy, squeaky fungus, bring it on!
Check out Full Circle’s Good Food Life blog this week for a great mushroom recipe and modify or add to your order for the week to get some great organic mushrooms delivered straight to you.