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By Sarah-Jane Bedwell
Known for their distinctive umami flavor and meaty texture, mushrooms are a great addition to any dish from Asian stir-fries to pasta sauces. And since September is National Mushroom Month, we thought we’d celebrate by sharing some fun facts about fungi. (Sorry guys, we had to!)
- Mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle with Vitamin D—and they’re one of the few non-fortified food sources. Mushrooms contain a fungal sterol (ergosterol) that converts to vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushroom growers have the ability to produce mushrooms with 100% Daily Value (400 IU) of vitamin D per serving, approximately 4-5 white button or crimini mushrooms, or one portabella.
- Authors of a recent Nutrition Today article note mushrooms’ nutrient and culinary characteristics suggest it may be time to re-evaluate food groupings and health benefits by adding a third kingdom—fungi/mycology—to the existing two food kingdoms of plants/botany and animals/zoology.
- Mushrooms are one of the few foods that provide ergothioneine, an important antioxidant related to immunity.
- In 2012, Americans consumed four pounds of mushrooms per capita.
- Mushrooms are claiming more space in the marketplace: They’re a $1.1 billion industry with more than 900 million pounds of mushrooms grown in the U.S. in the last year.
- Approximately four million students across the country have the opportunity to order the mushroom blend burger at lunch, which is a mixture of ground meat and cooked mushrooms. And surprisingly, the blend burger has a 92% preference in school district pilots with k-12 students.
- Speaking of mushroom blends, it looks like the kids are getting a preview of what’s to come in restaurants. Some of America’s favorite chefs, including Richard Blais, are leading the trend to blend and featuring mushroom blend items as a part of their menus in restaurants across the United States.
- Pennsylvania knocks the other states out of the water when it comes to growing ‘shrooms: they made 65% of the total volume of sales this past year. In fact, Kennett Square, Pa., is considered the mushroom capital of the world! (Too much a stretch to wonder if they have mushroom houses too?)
- Ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms were the plant of immortality, according to hieroglyphics 4,600 years ago.
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Plus, here’s a bonus mushroom breakdown, in case you’ve ever been stumped on the different varieties:
- White button: This is the most popular variety, making up about 90% of all mushrooms consumed in the U.S. They have a mild flavor that intensifies when they’re cooked and are great in pastas, on pizza, sautéed as a topping for a burger or sandwich and raw in salads.
- Crimini: Also known as baby ‘bellas these small brown mushrooms have a deep, earthy flavor that makes them great when paired with meaty dishes or sautéed with red wine.
- Portabella: The larger cousins of criminis, these large brown mushrooms have a great meaty texture and earthy, full-bodied flavor that makes them a great meat substitute. Try them on a bun, stuffed, or as a steak.
- Maitake: These are fan-shaped mushrooms without caps and are also known as “the hen of the woods.” They have a distinct aroma and a rich, woodsy taste that amps up the mushroom flavor in any dish. Use them when you want a bold mushroom flavor, such as in a cream of mushroom soup or a sauce.
- Shiitake: Brown with an umbrella-shaped cap, these mushrooms have curved stems that should be removed. They taste best when cooked as cooking brings out their rich, woodsy flavor. Their meaty texture makes them the perfect addition to stir-fries.
- Enoki: These cream-colored mushrooms have long, spindly steams and tiny button-shaped caps. Before serving, trim the roots at the cluster base and separate the stems. They are crunchy and mild-tasting, which makes them perfect for enjoying raw in salads and on sandwiches.
- Oyster: These delicately flavored mushrooms have a velvety texture and can be grey, pale yellow, or even blue! Sautéing them with butter and onions brings out their flavor and they are a great addition to pasta dishes.
- Beech: Tiny in size, these mushrooms have white or light brown caps and are crunchy with a mild, sweet-nutty flavor. Add at the last minute to soups, stews, sauces, and stir-fries to maintain their crunchy texture.
- Wild mushrooms: This includes varieties such as morels, truffles, and chanterelles, which can be very expensive and are considered delicacies. Their rich, distinctive flavor makes them popular with chefs of fine restaurants around the world.
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