THE MAGIC OF MUSHROOMS En­joy a myr­iad of flavour and health ben­e­fits.

Adding mushrooms to your menu can pro­vide a myr­iad of avour and health bene ts, says Jen Shaw

In the Moment - - Contents -

The hum­ble mush­room has a long­stand­ing his­tory in our folk­lore. We prob­a­bly all re­mem­ber the fairy­tale im­age of a toad­stool mush­room in our favourite child­hood story or nurs­ery rhyme. Th­ese mys­ti­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics are in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant; as sci­enti c stud­ies re­veal more about fungi and we ride the lat­est trend for adding mushrooms to ev­ery­thing from co ee to beauty prod­ucts, the un­tapped po­ten­tial power of mushrooms is myth­i­cal in its scale.

A Ja­panese study (pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tional Sci­ence and Vi­ta­minol­ogy) found links be­tween eat­ing shiitake mushrooms and lower blood pres­sure, and shiitake also con­tain lenti­nan, a sugar mol­e­cule be­lieved to en­hance the im­mune sys­tem. Last year, re­searchers at Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity tested 13 va­ri­eties of mush­room and found that they all con­tained high lev­els of anti-age­ing an­tiox­i­dants, in par­tic­u­lar wild porcini.

Of course, eat­ing and us­ing mushrooms to sup­port well­ness isn’t a new thing. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine has long used mushrooms for medic­i­nal pur­poses, but it’s only re­cently that the Western world has be­gun to wake up to the power of fungi, up­grad­ing mushrooms from a Sun­day brunch side dish to promi­nence on the plate.

Mushrooms are also an in­creas­ingly-used in­gre­di­ent in our cook­ing due to their avouren­hanc­ing prop­er­ties, thanks to high lev­els

of glu­ta­mate a type of amino acid linked to umami (the fth taste af­ter sweet, salt, sour and bit­ter). They’ve be­come the star of the show, too, as veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan op­tions be­come more pop­u­lar. Mushrooms have an in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile avour, and can give an al­most meaty tex­ture for those search­ing for a sub­sti­tute in plant-based recipes.

For chef and au­thor Rachel de Tham­ple, the way in which mushrooms grow is key to un­der­stand­ing the well­be­ing bene ts that they o er. “Mushrooms are fas­ci­nat­ing, eco­log­i­cally -speak­ing, es­pe­cially for some­one like me who is in­ter­ested in or­ganic farm­ing and soil health,” she says. “The part of the mush­room that we eat are spores that rise from un­der­ground net­works of mycelium [the thread-like veg­e­ta­tive struc­ture of fungi]. If you think of mushrooms as be­ing like ap­ples, they are the ‘fruit’ and th­ese in­cred­i­ble un­der­ground net­works of mycelium can be likened to the ‘tree’.

“To re­pro­duce, mush­room spores need to at­tach to a nu­tri­tious source be­cause they have no chloro­phyll to help them make food. That doesn’t mean that mushrooms suck the life out of other plants, how­ever. It’s ac­tu­ally quite the op­po­site; most mushrooms have a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with other plants, giv­ing them the nu­tri­ents they need to help pro­duce the sug­ars the mush­room feeds o . They help each other to grow and re­ceive the best nu­tri­ents they can get.”

It is this re­la­tion­ship that gives mushrooms the varied nu­tri­ents that we can bene t from, from vi­ta­min D to an­tiox­i­dants. “Cer­tain mushrooms are also known as adap­to­gens,” says food blog­ger Eli Brecher, who de­scribes mushrooms as be­ing heal­ing plants. “Th­ese can help the body to adapt to stress, ght in am­ma­tion, boost the im­mune sys­tem, coun­ter­act fa­tigue, reg­u­late hor­mones and ba­si­cally bring it all back into bal­ance.”

Read on for ways to bring more mushrooms into your ev­ery­day cook­ing, so you too can reap the bene ts of their nat­u­ral magic.

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