There’s something you need to know about me.
It’s something I haven’t shared with you before, but I think it’s important that you know: I’m a mycophile.
Despite how suspicious this sounds, all it means is that I love cooking and eating different types of mushrooms. So I’d be surprised if there weren’t a few other mycophiles reading this too.
Mushrooms are a fascinating and rewarding food. They’re packed full of unique flavors and have some considerable health benefits that I’ll talk about a little later. What’s more, they have a special reputation distinct from all other vegetables (they’re not even really a vegetable, they’re a part of a fungus): Mushrooms are seen as being delicious, dangerous, mysterious and magical all at the same time.
People have been eating mushrooms for thousands of years, both for their flavor and their health benefits. Before mushrooms were widely cultivated like they are today, they were acquired by foraging. Careless mushrooms hunters got sick or died when they mistook poisonous species for edible ones. And because mushrooms grow so quickly and so unpredictably they seem to spring up by magic. So their reputation is well deserved.
And then of course there are magic mushrooms. But that’s a whole different blog, so I’m just not going to get involved.
What you and your shaman get up to is your own business.
3 Reasons Why Edible Mushrooms are Amazing
One of the main reasons I love mushrooms is that they’re such a versatile ingredient. Once you have some mushrooms in the fridge, you’re no more than a few minutes away from a blended soup or mushies on toast. A few minutes more and you have risotto ai funghi or a simple pasta. And dried mushrooms are a larder staple that instantly add depth and lift an easy meal above the ordinary.
Plus, mushrooms are pretty cheap given how tasty they are.
Now, a lot of my friends are vegan or vegetarian. When I want to cook them something special mushrooms are where my mind goes first. Mushrooms are one of the best ingredients for satisfying an appetite for savoury, umami flavours without using animal products. Edible fungi give a dish those same deep, rich flavours as the maillard reaction gives to meat.
Finally, this is a pretty personal point but again, I’d be surprised if I was alone in this. I think mushrooms look really cool. The diversity of shapes, sizes, colors and textures among the different species is, to my eyes, endlessly engaging. From the bright yellow of chanterelles, to the patterns on shiitakes’ caps to pale and delicate little enoki, mushrooms just look awesome!
As well as being convenient, versatile and delicious, mushrooms also pack some serious nutrition. The precise nutrient content varies by species but most types of mushrooms have similar benefits. Firstly, mushrooms contain a lot of the essential minerals iron, copper and selenium, all of which are pretty easy to absorb from fungi.
Mushrooms can boost your immune system, both through the A, B & C Vitamins they contain and the antioxidant ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is practically unique to mushrooms and offers significant protection from free radicals.
Finally, mushrooms, particularly the shiitake mushrooms in Subi, contain compounds that have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects. What does that mean? Well, eating them regularly can contribute to resistance to infections. That’s basically a superpower, right?
Richness and Variety
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet is to include enough variation so that your meals stay exciting. The richness and variation that different species of mushrooms offer is a great way to bring something new to your diet.
One of my go-to zero effort dinner templates is [mushrooms] + [eggs], like grilled portobellos with scrambled eggs or sautéed mixed mushrooms and poached eggs. It’s a “recipe” that’s always 1. Easy, 2. Quick, & 3. Delicious.
Try it and see if you’re ready to call yourself a mycophile too.