We’re tackling a big one this week – MUSHROOMS. I like using mushrooms. They are packed with nutrition, a great flavor addition to many dishes, and can even act as a meat substitute. Thanks to years of living by mushroom farms I may know more than YOU ever want to know about this versatile fungi.
What are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are a fungi. They grow in the wild but are a tricky thing to “hunt” as only some wild mushrooms are edible. Others are poisonous and can kill you. They are also grown commercially in small houses on mushroom farms. There are many varieties of mushrooms with the most common varieties being: white, brown (crimini/portabella), Shiitake, Oyster, Royal Trumpet, Maitake, Enoki, Beech, and Pom Pom mushrooms.
Mushrooms are a good source of nutrients with 40% of your daily requirement of copper, and approximately 1/4th Vitamins B2 and B3. The amounts vary depending on which mushroom you are eating, and some have a nice amount of Vitamin D, also. Here is a great resource to check when you want to know the nutrients in different foods, especially fresh produce.
How to Choose Mushrooms
You want to look for mushrooms that have a smooth surface. Make sure they are firm and don’t look wrinkled, dried out, or slimy. The variety you choose will depend on the dish and level of mushroom flavor you are looking for. Generally, white mushrooms have the least flavor with crimini mushrooms (baby bellas) having a little bolder of a flavor, then some of the fancier varieties having a stronger and more unique flavor profile. Our family’s favorite is the crimini (baby bella/brown) mushroom.
You can find fresh mushrooms in the produce coolers (usually near refrigerated herbs or peppers), canned, dried, or frozen.
How to Use Mushrooms
You can use mushrooms raw in dishes like salads and on sandwiches, swap parts of ground meat out for minced up mushroom, fry them as a side dish or topping, make them into homemade mushroom soup, add a boost of flavor to stir fries and soups, or make any number of preparations wit them. Mushrooms are quite versatile and add flavor to any dish. We’ve even had it in pumpkin mushroom ice cream and cream of mushroom popsicles at The Mushroom Festival (yes, a real thing and a pretty cool festival).
How to Grow Mushrooms
Since we used to live in the Mushroom Capital of the World (true place – look it up), we learned a lot about mushrooms. It also turned my mushroom hating husband into a mushroom lover. The process starts with composing the mushroom soil (manure, corn cobs, cocoa hulls, straw). Can you guess that mushroom growing is a very stinky business? From there they fill the mushroom houses with soil, pasteurize the soil to get rid of all the dead organisms and maintain the organism mushrooms grow and thrive on, then add the spawn, which has been pre-added to a bag or rye or millet to start the growing process.
The mushroom beds are then watered every other day as the spawn start to grow. Like any other mold, when the spawn is hit with water it pulls in on itself. As it dries it spreads back out but with this repeated pattern the button of the mushroom starts to form. Once the mushroom head is formed it doubles in size approximately every 24 hours and is generally ready to be harvested in weeks 4-7 of the mushroom planting cycle. For an example, if you look at a crimini mushroom compared to a portabella, you can see an approximate 3 day growth as crimini mushrooms (baby bellas) are simply baby portabellas.
If you want to try growing mushrooms you can always get one of these mini mushroom farm kits from Back to the Roots.
How to Preserve Mushrooms
I’ve never tried preserving mushrooms but I know they can be dried, frozen, and pressure canned. The only way I have preserved them is the batch I have in the freezer right now. I sauteed them until they were softened and slightly cooked down then froze them. I will see how they hold up and let you know how it works.