Mushrooms are often classified as vegetables for cuisine purposes when, in fact, they are not plants. Well, at least, technically.
They are a member of the fungus kingdom. There are many kinds of mushrooms, to the extent that the most they all have in common is a stem, a cap and gills (lamella).
Some are edible, while others will kill or paralyse you, and the trick is in being able to identify one from the other.
What Do They Look Like?
It might sound silly but collecting mushrooms is actually an activity which people engage in. However, if you don’t know what mushrooms look like, you might end up collecting only their lookalikes.
When going out to forage for them, take two baskets to sort out the ones you collect. Every mushroom has a cap, but the caps are shaped differently. Some are cone shaped, while others are only slightly curved.
There are also those which have caps with wavy edges and ones with an upside down cap. They have spores which are produced by their gills; these are the first things to fall off in a powdery form.
What Do Mushrooms Taste Like?
When eaten raw, mushrooms are essentially tasteless. But when seasoned with a little salt, they taste like meat. This is ironic because mushrooms contain very little protein: just close to three grams per cup.
How To Identify Edible Mushrooms From Poisonous Ones
The first interesting fact about mushrooms, as we mentioned earlier, is that whilst some are highly nutritious, others are poisonous enough to cause paralysis or death in humans.
That is why you are advised not to rely on anything other than a good knowledge of mushrooms in order to identify safe ones, and don’t get carried away by some dishonest food labels in your favorite grocery store.
As a general rule for a beginner, avoid mushrooms with red caps.
Not all of them are dangerous but a great number of them are, so it is best that you stay clear of them until you are well versed in the art of foraging mushrooms.
Also avoid mushrooms with rings around the stem and those with white gills. They are dangerous.
Try picking only boletes (the meaty, spongy kind of mushrooms). This is because they are easy to identify and delicious too.
Quick Mushroom Facts
- There is a type of mushroom called laetiporus which tastes almost like fried chicken.
- The super agaric mushrooms contain a chemical which causes micropsia and macropsia. Simply put, they can make objects around you appear smaller or larger, respectively, when consumed.
- There is a kind of mushroom which dissolves itself if not eaten a couple of hours after being picked.
How To Prepare Them
The great thing about mushrooms is that they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be part of many dishes and cooked in many ways besides the common frying method.
But whichever way you want to cook them, you have to prepare them first.
As a general rule, do not wash them. This is because mushrooms can soak up water quickly, thereby causing them to lose their flavour and making it impossible for them to brown when being cooked. Simply wipe off any dirt with a brush.
- Bring out flavours from the mushroom by adding a little salt, olive oil or butter.
- You can roast mushrooms, as this brings out more of their taste. Before doing so, coat them with oil.
- You can also choose to grill mushrooms the way you do beef. Simply place them on the grill pan and allow them to cook until they are visibly brown.
- Cook mushrooms with eggs by adding them to raw eggs before frying or making your omelette. They go well together.
Nutrients In Mushrooms
Antioxidants: Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants which have been known to aid in the fight of cancer by getting rid of free radicals (these cause cancer).
Selenium: This is a very rare mineral, so much so that it is not present in most of the fruits which normally have an abundance of minerals.
However, selenium is found in mushrooms and helps to both detoxify the body and prevent the development of cancer cells.
Other nutrients include:
Vitamins B, C and D