As winter slowly comes to an end, I took some time to reflect on one of my most used winter/autumn ingredients and how I was lucky enough to go on 2 expeditions to learn more about my favourite fungus, the mushroom.
Mushrooms are a nutrition powerhouse and are rich in B group vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin as well minerals such as selenium, chromium and copper. The also contain folate, potassium and other bioactive compounds that make it one of the most amazing superfoods out there! A unique quality of the mushroom is that it can naturally generate vitamin D when exposed to sunlight (or any UV light for that matter). In fact, if you place 100g of store bought mushrooms in the sun for several hours, the mushrooms will produce enough vitamin D to meet the daily recommended requirements for good bone health! How amazing is that!
To kick off my mushroom extravaganza, my beautiful friend (and mentor) Emma Stirling from Scoop Nutrition invited me to her annual mushroom foraging event at Woodend. A group of us met and were shown how to identify a variety of different wild mushrooms by expert mushroom, Jim Fuller.
There were lots of mushrooms; with plenty of Pine mushrooms and beautiful (but inedible) candy coloured toadstools. However, many of the mushrooms I found were the (not so) charmingly named Slippery Jacks, which were as wet and slimy as their name suggests. Nonetheless it was a fun day spent laughing and foraging through the misty woods.
After all the searching we all shared lunch before heading back to Melbourne with our foraged goodies.
My next mushroom expedition was with Prahran Market and the Australian Mushroom Growers where I got to learn about the commercial production of mushrooms at Parwan Valley Mushrooms. Parwan Valley Mushrooms produce the white mushrooms you see in Coles and Woolies and includes the button mushroom, cup mushroom and flat mushroom variety. We saw how mushrooms start their life as spores in the dirt and within several days form the mushroom ‘fruit’ that we know and eat. When selecting mushrooms, look for the whitest and brightest mushrooms and give them a feel to make sure they’re firm to touch. If they feel soft, they aren’t fresh.
After all the fun we travelled back to Prahran Market and enjoyed champagne with some delicious mushroom goodies made by Tommy Collins Catering. Of all the health benefits mushrooms possess, my favourite thing about them is the ‘umami’ flavour they bring to a dish. Umami is otherwise known as the savoury flavour in food that comes from the high level of naturally occurring glutamates that makes meals so much more tasty.
Mushrooms really are one of nature’s superfoods. They’re high in nutrients, antioxidants and flavour whilst also being affordable, easily available and low in kilojoules. If you’re looking for more evidence based research into mushrooms, check out Australian Mushrooms for more info.