Photo by: Jill Bliss
We don’t always realize it, but a lot of what we eat is a kind of filler, literally. America has a large reliance on corn for food – corn, corn derivatives, and corn syrup are found ubiquitously. If you pay attention to ingredient labels on food, as most people do, you’ll notice certain ingredients are found in many diverse types of food: wheat, sugars, water, salt. Part of the reason is how versatile certain ingredients are, and how universal – potatoes, for instance. Mushrooms are becoming a new filler ingredient in food, but it’s generally a good thing.
Mushrooms tend to divide people. Some love them and some despise them. They do grow in moist environs and some folks don’t care for their earthiness, “dirtiness,” or – sometimes – sliminess (depending on how prepared). However, they are crucial to certain dishes, from a good juicy mushroom hamburger to salads to stroganoff.
Mushrooms are arguably the biggest creature on earth, if you count a mushroom colony as one entity. They often lurk just under the ground, but can be massive. Mushrooms are making a comeback, appearing now in coffees, hot chocolates, and as a bulking ingredient in vegan and vegetarian foods. Mild onions have often been used as this bulking ingredient, but mushrooms provide an opportunity for more flavor and, as you will see advertised, adaptogenic properties: nutrients that help the body adapt to toxins, deficiencies, and stress. Mushrooms are both naturally antiviral and antibacterial, and absorb nutrients from the soil that animals need, including minerals. They can also absorb radiation and, as anyone knows, be highly toxic, so if you get enthused about culinary mushroom use or mycology, be sure to know what you’re doing!
Mushrooms are enjoying the spotlight now. As consumers seek healthier options, mushrooms are showing up in products you wouldn’t normally associate them with – hot chocolate, coffee, bone broth, and even as “mushroom mud,” an alternative to coffee completely. Mushrooms can be transformed beautifully into many dishes, and at Bex Kitchen, Chef Becky relies on them for their nutritional value, taste, and variability. She has made Bean Bourguignon, Steak Diane with mushrooms, Beef Bourguignon, mushrooms with brie and polenta, and stuffed mushroom caps. Becky personally loves shiitake mushrooms for their taste, health value, and how much her clients and customers enjoy them.
Some newer products containing mushrooms are making overly-confident claims about focus, energy, stamina, etc, which may be true for some and not others. Mushrooms are not a wonder drug or cure-all; they’ve been around since antiquity, but combined with other ingredients and depending how they’re prepared, can be highly beneficial. A cousin of mushrooms, the truffle, is highly sought after for their taste and rareness. Humorously, truffle pigs are better than dogs for snuffing out truffles, but they have a tendency to eat the truffles they find!
Come check out the mushroom dishes at Bex, where it’s all about the bite.