Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mushrooms Can Save the World, and You too!

I love mushrooms. I have loved them ever since I was a girl reading fairy tales and learned that mushrooms had magical abilities. There is something secret and mysterious about them that appeals to me.. Early on I learned to enjoy them as food. My mother took classes on foraging wild mushrooms, and used to take us on mushrooms walks in the woods where I had visions of Hansel and Gretel and Snow White and the Dwarves hiding behind trees.

As a licensed massage therapist and during my time working in the health and wellness department at Ellwood Thompsons Local Market here in Richmond, I had the opportunity to learn from experts about the amazing healing benefits of mushrooms.The more I learn about mushrooms, the more enthralled I am with them, and the more I know that they really DO have magical abilities.

Scientist and researcher Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti, calls them myco-medicinals. Stamets probably knows more about mushrooms than anyone. He believes that they can save the world(in no less than six ways which he explains in a brilliant video. According to Stamets,  mushrooms are closer relatives to humans than plants, and have an inherent intelligence within them. I believe it. Mushrooms contain some of the most potent medicine found in nature, and recent scientific studies confirm what ancient shamans and medicine men have known forever. The medicine is both in the fruit body, the part that we eat, and in the mycelium, the tiny threadlike network of cells that lies under the fruit body.

They are being used to treat cancer, HIV and AIDs, fight smallpox, detox livers, inhibit diabetes, arthritis and inflammation, ease anxiety, and boost our immunity. They are anti-viral, ant-oxidative, anti fatiguing, anti-fibrotic, anti microbial and can help reduce the negative effects of chemo and radioactive treatments. Nutritionally, mushrooms contain protein, are low in calories, and pack a punch of B-complex vitamins and essential minerals like selenium, copper and potassium.

Stamets also works with the United States Department of Interior to clean up oil spills using oyster mushrooms, and is currently working on the BP Gulf spill (he also worked on the Exxon Valdez clean up.)  His statement on the situation, and what he proposes we do to deal with future spills is the most realistic and positive thing I’ve read about the whole disaster. He has patents to control termites, fire ants and other destructive insects using fungi. He invented packaging for his mushroom health supplements called a Life Box, which infuses the box with spores and seeds, which when planted, will grow trees!

Mushrooms, seemingly pricey by the pound, are really a bargain, when you take into consideration all of the above. A portion weighs only a few ounces and a couple handfuls will put you back a few bucks. I happily stuff my face with them every chance I get. I tell myself that I am healing me in every possible way. Better to dine on delicious mushrooms today, than be sick tomorrow, eh?

A few months ago we got our first oyster mushrooms from Dave and Dee’s Homegrown Mushrooms in Sedley, Va. I was in awe of them. They were so beautiful I took about 100 pictures of them. I posted on Facebook that we had them on the veggie bus, and people literally came flying by moments later. They are called oysters because they resemble an oyster shell. They are velvety, with a robust sweet flavor. We have the oysters from time to time, and this week we have both oysters, and shiitakes, which are also incredibly good for you in many ways and also good for the environment.

Select fresh, firm, well-shaped mushrooms that are free of spots, mold and slime. Refrigerate unwashed mushrooms in their original pack or in a paper bag, don’t use plastic. Use them right away for maximum excitement and flavor, but most varieties will keep up to a week. Clean them with a damp cloth or soft brush, or quickly rinse in cold water and pat dry. They do not have to be peeled.

Mushrooms can be prepared in many ways, but it is important to cook them, as that releases the healing power in them. Raw mushrooms will not be digested, and just pass through our bodies so we don’t get any nutrition or health benefits from them.

Sautéing mushrooms are one of my favorite ways to cook them, fast and easy. I like to use this Asian style recipe below as the mushrooms become almost crispy in texture and it really showcases the flavor of them mushrooms themselves instead of any sort of sauce they might be part of.

Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
• 1 pound small oyster mushrooms (any large ones cut into 1-inch pieces), stems trimmed
• 2 teaspoons coconut or apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp sea salt

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sauté mushrooms with 1/2 teaspoon salt until golden, about 8 minutes. Add vinegar and sauté until evaporated, about 1 minute. Season with salt, then transfer to a plate to cool. Serve at room temperature. These can be made ahead of time, and kept room temperature for up to 4 hours.

Roast mushrooms with Vegetables by Dave and Dee
This recipe is one of Dave and Dee's favorites. Easy and delicious, this recipe makes a perfect meal in itself.

5-10 small, low starch potatoes such as Yukon Gold
3 raw beets
3-4 carrots
1 lb. Dave and Dee’s Oyster Mushrooms
2-3 small yellow squash or zucchini
1-2 medium onions
Olive Oil
Cracked Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Wash and peel carrots, beets, and onions and cut into bite-sized pieces (a large dice). Wash and dice potatoes and squash/zucchini as well, and toss all vegetables together in a large bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss again until well-coated.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Tear the oyster mushrooms off the root and toss them lightly in with the rest of the vegetables until coated with oil. 
  • Lay the vegetables in a single layer on a cookie sheet (you may need two cookie sheets to ensure your vegetables aren’t piled on top of each other). 
  • Cook in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until vegetables are tender and starting to caramelize. IMPORTANT: Turn the vegetables every 15 minutes and re-salt as needed during cooking.

Shiitake Mushroom Pate with Truffle Oil
I  love mushroom pate, and make this during the holidays or when I want to impress my friends. This is easy to veganize, substituting vegan spread for the butter. I like to use the gorgeous cultured butter from grass fed cows we have here in the market from Mountain View Farms. It’s a delicious and decadent way to get those omega 3 essential fatty acids!

This takes about 50 minutes to make and needs at least 2 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to fully come together (or overnight). It will keep well for a few days refrigerated.

1 lb. Shiitake mushrooms (also try with Portobello or porcini)
1/2 an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
½ c stick of butter
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 Bay leaves
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works very well)
Salt to taste (start with 1 and a quarter teaspoons; keep tasting)
Freshly-ground pepper to taste (I like to put in LOTS)
1 tsp white or black truffle oil

• If you are using the porcini, boil exactly 1 cup of water, and soak the dried porcinis in it for at least 20 minutes
• Brush the mushrooms (do not rinse them in water). Remove the stems, cut off the end where they're attached to the ground and chop them in small pieces with the. You can use a food processor if you want, but make sure the pieces don't get too small.
• Cook them covered in a skillet with the herbs, the drained porcini (keep the water they soaked in) and the chopped garlic for 30 minutes on a low flame. Every now and then lift the cover and add some of the wine and some of the porcini water. The liquids should be all used up before the 30 minutes are up.
• After 30 minutes of simmering, remove the lid. If still too wet, let the moisture evaporate: It should look like a thick sauce, not watery at the bottom. Don't burn it. Turn the burner off and remove the bay leaves.
• If you like a finer consistency, chop it finer with an immersion blender or in the food processor before adding the butter.
• Melt butter. I prefer not to use microwaves in cooking, as it changes the molecular structure of food, and renders it void of nutrition. The butter should not cook, just melt. Add it to the pate and stir it in vigorously.
• Add truffle oil if you want repeat invitations to the dinner you're taking it to. Truffle flavor does not like high-temperatures, so add it always at the end for maximum flavor.

Place the pate in a bowl and refrigerate it before serving at least 2 hours, the flavors will meld and concentrate.


1 comment:

  1. This is fantstic!!!! I too, am a fan of the mushroom :) I have been asked on numerous occasions, "what are the staples in my kitchen?" I named several items; including mushrooms. It gives so many fresh foods A LOT of flavor vs. using seasonings with added salts and such. But I know I don't need to really tell you all of this ;) I am just thrilled with this post and sharing my enthusiasm for the lovely, magical mushroon. Thanks so much lovely Ms. Lilly!!!