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.
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.
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.