The mushroom may pale in comparison to the other brightly colored vegetables in the display case, but nutritionally it is no lightweight. Mushrooms contain surprising amounts of fiber, B vitamins, selenium, potassium, and copper. They are also the only plant source of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight, their vit. D content soars.
Emerging data suggests that mushrooms may have the ability to enhance our immune system, fight infections, and offer protection against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mushrooms contain enzymes and microbial compounds to fight off potential invaders and to keep from rotting. Scientists believe these survival skills of fungi may be a clue to the health benefits, considering the fact the antibiotic penicillin was derived from a fungus.
Mushrooms can also help in low calorie meal planning, since they are 90% water and virtually fat-free. When used as a substitute for meat, they can reduce calorie intake by 400 calories a day.
Complex flavors and appealing textures make mushrooms a versatile ingredient in cooking. Add crunch with raw enokis to salads or soups. Stir-fry almost any fresh mushroom or saute with garlic and toss with pasta. Top steaks, chicken, and omelets. Creminis may be oven roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and eaten hot, or cooled and added to salads. Portabellas (a large cremini) are perfect for brushing with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and grilling. Dried porcini and shiitake add flavor to soups and sauces, and risotto.
Fresh mushrooms can be refrigerated for up to a week when stored in a paper bag. Quickly rinse mushrooms to remove obvious dirt, but don't soak them as they will absorb water and become soggy. Trim off the end of the stem before using. If you go foraging for wild mushrooms, bring an expert who knows the difference between the edible and the stomach-pumpers!