Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fabulous Fungi

Mushrooms are not a true vegetable but a fungus. They have no roots or leaves, do not flower or bear seeds, and do not need light to grow. There are approximately 38,000 varieties of mushrooms, some edible and some highly toxic.

Their history is rich and revered. The Chinese used them for medicine. The Egyptian pharaohs declared them a food suitable only for royals. The French were the first to cultivate mushrooms in caves in the early 17th century. In the late 19th century, mushrooms were being grown commercially in both Europe and the United States. Farmers in Pennsylvania developed a method for growing mushrooms indoors, which is how most mushrooms are grown today. Many wild varieties are cultivated in this manner, which has allowed them to become more affordable and widely available.

The flavor of mushrooms comes from glutamic acid in part, which is a natural form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG contains a considerable amount of sodium while fresh mushrooms are virtually sodium free.

Since they are not colorful, mushrooms had been thought of as lacking significant nutritional content, however, they do supply key nutrients. They are a decent source of the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin (they contain some B6 and folate too), iron, potassium, selenium, and vanadium (recently identified as an essential trace mineral in humans). They are a good source of dietary fiber. They contain the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber beta glucan and they have also been discovered to contain antioxidant levels similar to other colorful vegetables. They are very low in calories with one cup of raw mushrooms supplying approximately 20 calories.

Mushrooms contain some vitamin D. When they are exposed to sunlight at the end of their growing cycle, they will produce a significant amount of vitamin D. They are one of the few foods to contain natural vitamin D. Look for the sunlight mushrooms in your local grocery store.

It used to be that the white button mushrooms were the only variety available in the marketplace. Now, varieties abound, cultivated and wild, fresh and dried. Mushrooms can transform the flavor of a dish adding an earthy rich flavor.

Mushrooms are highly absorbent and their contact with water should be limited when cleaning. With that said, they are 80% water and you will notice that they release water when being cooked. It is recommended that they be cleaned by wiping them with a damp towel or brush. Depending on what is being cooked, I often times will rinse them quickly in water to remove most of the dirt.

For more information about mushrooms visit Fresh Mushrooms, Nature's Hidden Treasure.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Shrimp

1# pasta shells (I recommend whole wheat)

2 T. unsalted butter + 2 T. olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 # fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

3/4 # medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

½ cup chicken broth

½ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute or until softened. Increase heat to medium high, add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Add shrimp, sauté for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.

3. Drain pasta; place in a serving bowl and toss with cheese and parsley. Add mushroom-shrimp sauce; toss. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings


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  2. I don't mushrooms to eat or even use them a little in my dishes. But i Know that some of these Fungi are really good for health. Thanks for sharing your information it was really exclusive.