Pass the Puffballs please!

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January 04, 2018

by Erin Riddell



Will 2018 be the start of Mushroom Mania? Erin Riddell certainly thinks so.


Mushroom hunting was a common part of my childhood. I remember bringing back paper bags full of beefsteaks, collected from the woods around my grandparents’ house, and collecting giant puffballs - edible as long as they’re pure white inside. Sliced thick and thrown on the grill, or deep-fried to golden batter perfection, they made a perfect accompaniment to the fish we’d caught, or just about anything else.

My family’s love of mushrooms is near legendary, so much was my woe and disappointment when I was told over and over that mushrooms were nutritionally void – just taking up space in a dish, but not contributing to your health.

It wasn’t until well into my adulthood (after the consumption of many hundreds of pounds of the tasty devils) that the nutritional benefits of mushrooms started to emerge from the darkness. “Suddenly” these diminutive fungi were packed with selenium (a powerful antioxidant), copper, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, protein, B vitamins (2, 3, 5, and 12), vitamins C & D, iron, and fiber, as well as antibiotic properties. Mushrooms are also rich in umami – contributing to their “meatiness” which makes them a great substitute for meat (and for reducing salt!).

Now it seems mushrooms could potentially have even more health benefits, with everything from energy and memory boosting possibilities to anti-inflammatory properties and claims of neuron regeneration.


What a wealth of consumer possibilities!


Although the science may still be sketchy, that hasn’t stopped the explosion of medicinal mushroom goods from sprouting up all over the US market. Far beyond the scrumptious bowl of risotto or the heavenly plate of truffled pasta, these new health-benefit touting mushrooms come in products ranging from shroom smoothies to tonics, broths, skincare products, and even coffee.

That’s right – you can start your day with a healthy dose of fungus.

Mushroom mania hasn’t quite reached the pinnacle of kale (or oats, or soy…), but when there are Ted Talks with names like “6 ways mushrooms can save the world” (view here), books titled Healing Mushrooms, celebrity enthusiasts such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Whole Foods listing medicinal mushrooms as a top food trend for 2018, and the mushroom market expected to exceed $50 billion by 2024, the growth potential of this field has just begun to sprout.

Am I ready to lace my continuous cup of coffee with a mushroom marinade? Maybe not. But I’ll be watching to see if this becomes another “superfood” trend.