I’ve always been in love with mushrooms. Ever since my first encounter with a sliced champignon, straight from a can I’ve been hooked.
And I’ve always dreamed of learning the secrets to mushroom foraging. I’ve longed for finding my hidden patch in a pine forest. For developing a ritual of spending Autunmal days hunting for fungi-treasure and then mastering the drying and preserving techniques.
I came close once. A few years ago, when I was working a vintage in a winery in the Rhone Valley in France, the family who owned the little apartment I was renting invited me to join them on a mushrooming expedition. With stories of the abundance of ceps they had found the year before, I was almost bursting with anticipation.
But alas, it was unseasonably hot and dry and all we came home with were a few handfuls wild myrtilles or berries. And so my dream continues unrealised.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered a mushroom grower at the Canberra farmers market. While the varieties on offer are just your garden variety mushroom – no trompettes de mort (trumpets of death) or or cloud ear here, they are delicious. Earthy and savoury and meaty – everything you need in a mushroom, really.
9 things you probably don’t know about mushrooms
1. mushrooms don’t need washing
If your mushrooms look clean, then they probably are and no washing is required. If you see any visible signs of dirt, best to remove with a brush or moistened cloth, rather than dunking in water.
2. mushrooms can help your immune system
Mushrooms have the fascinating ability to be able to boost a weak immune system. Maybe next winter we should all be eating mushroom risotto rather than getting flu shots.
But not only that, they are able to curb an overstimulated immune system, as in the case of auto-immune diseases such as arthritis and allergies.
3. like people, mushrooms can produce vitamin D
Yes, all those mushrooms that are out getting tans aren’t doing it to look good, they’re making sure they get enough Vitamin D.
4. mushrooms are neither plants nor animals
They actually belong to the ‘fungi’ kingdom along with bacteria & yeasts. Although I recently read they are classed along with animals rather than plants in the ‘super kingdom’ classification. I hope this revelation doesn’t open a metaphorical vegan can of worms ;)
5. mushrooms are the only non-animal source of vitamin B12
I did read somewhere that this was because of the manure that many mushrooms are grown in. But can’t remember where this tidbit came from.
6. mushrooms are rich in umami (or savoury) flavours
Containing glutamate, free amino acids and ribonucleotides, mushrooms have earned their nickname ‘meat for vegetarians’ because of their ability to boost the savoury flavours in food.
7. mushrooms are the second most valuable vegetable crop in Australia
And if you’re wondering, the humble spud is in the number 1. spot.
8. mushrooms have been linked to low rates of cancer
Apparently a study in Japan showed low rates of cancer in a population that had very high consumption of mushrooms.
On further investigation of this topic I have also learned that ‘magic’ mushrooms can help cancer suffers by easing their anxiety. Who would have thought?
9. unblemished, firm and dry are indicators of good mushrooms
When shopping for mushrooms, avoid any that are mushy looking, blemished or wrinkled or wet. Some would say its best to look for the same characteristics in your mushrooms that you would hope for in a mate.
roast portabello mushrooms
serves 3 – 4
I love roasting mushrooms because I find it so simple, just pop them in the oven and about 25 minutes later you have the most divine smells. It’s also great because the mushroom flavour seems to be intensified by the heat of the oven.
These roast mushrooms are a great go-to recipe when you need to find a vegetarian option. Serve with the same accompaniments that you would use for roast or grilled meat or fish. Too easy.
They’re also a life saver in a decadent mushroom sandwich with lots of mayo or aioli and a few salad leaves. Or finely slice and toss hot mushrooms and their juices in with some cooked pasta, a little extra butter and some parmesan cheese.
3/4 lb (350g) medium portabello mushrooms, about 7
1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 bunch thyme
approx 60g (2oz) stick butter, diced
1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
2.. Trim mushroom stalks and place in a baking dish stem side up. Scatter with garlic, thyme, butter, salt & pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes.
3. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and tender.
roast mushroom & bread salad
serves 3 – 4
Bread salads are a brilliant way to use up any not-so-fresh bread you may have hanging around. But they are equally delicious with fresh bread as well. Just make sure your bread is rustic and has a substantial texture like a good quality sourdough.
The beauty of this salad is that the wonderful buttery, juices from roasting the mushrooms mix in with the dressing and get soaked up by the bread so not one ounce of earthy mushroom flavour is lost.
Field mushrooms or any other large mushrooms may be used instead of portabello.
For a vegan version, replace the butter with additional extra virgin olive oil and add a generous handful of toasted pine nuts instead of the parmesan.
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
6 – 7 roasted portabello mushrooms (recipe above)
large chunk rustic bread, approx 7ox (200g)
1 bunch flat leaf (continental) parsley, leaves picked
shavings of parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Whisk together vinegar and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large salad bowl. Taste and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
5. Carefully tear the mushrooms into halves or quarters, you want bight sized pieces.
6. Remove the bottom crust from the bread and tear into bight sized chunks.
7. Toss bread and mushrooms in with the dressing, encouraging the bread to soak up the dressing. Taste and season, if needed.
8. Toss in parsley leaves and sprinkle over the parmesan shavings. Serve warm.
5 ingredients disclosure: The photos above were taken before I had taken my 5 ingredients pledge. So the salad in the picture actually contains a 6th ingredient, wholegrain mustard. I’ve since made the salad without the mustard and it’s still lovely, phew. But by all means add a tablespoon of mustard if you like.
In case you missed it last week, I’ve released my ecookbook, 5 ingredients | 10 minutes in 2 NEW formats. To find out the details and make the most of my launch offer, head over to The Stonesoup Shop.
Hi Jules – the dsicussion abotu B12 in mushrooms coming from manure and not the mushroom itself came from a comment to your blog during your vegetarian trial! Apparently this IS true. I guess the tests were done on commercially grown mushrooms – and not wild ones (that tend to grow in moss/trees/etc and not horse manure.
It is a pity you did not find any ceps while in France – the good thing about those hot dry summers is that so many OTHER types of wild mushroom get a chance at sprouting instead! Apparently mushrooming in the Blue mountains and near Canberra is possible with a guide now (my siter who lives in Sydney did this in your autumn – there was even a link in the smh back in August). Drying or preserving them is easy if you are ready to invest a little time in your fungus…. the results are definitely worth it and the only problem is deciding what to do with them all!!!!
fountain of knowledge – there you go. thanks for the refresher on the B12.
and thanks for the suggestion of tracking down a mushroom guide – definitely something to get onto in Autumn
I LOVE MUSHROOMS. Always have, always will. There are a few people my age who hate them (“they’re fungi, like mould!”) but I love love love them. They give so much flavour! I want to try making a portobello mushroom burger. I never thought about roasting mushrooms alone, though; it sounds amazing.
I love it when you do posts that contain “things you don’t know about____” – I always learn something cool! Thanks for the info.
glad you’re a mushroom fan – those people who don’t eat fungi are missing out!
glad the article lived up to expectations!
There are plenty of good reasons to enjoy mushrooms, however:
“Apparently a study in Japan showed low rates of cancer in a population that had very high consumption of mushrooms.”
Most of the studies in Japan are unreliable, especially those conducted on food. Most of them are done by companies with an interest in promoting the health benefits of eating those foods because they are either directly producing them or part of a conglomerate that produces them. For instance, Mizkan, a producer of a wide variety of vinegar products, conducted a study that said vinegar consumption promotes weight loss. No surprise.
I’d look carefully at *any* Japanese study and see who was behind it. The Japanese don’t scrutinize their studies the same way that Americans do and can and do say whatever they want and don’t get called on it.
Mushrooms can be eaten raw, finely sliced in salads too
thanks for the great recipes and for some of the mushroom facts that I didn’t know. I never knew they were high in Vitamin D….I did know about not having to wash them but most people don’t listen to that fact (I do because if you wash them it makes them soggy)
These recipes look wonderful!
Alton Brown actually did an experiment about washing mushrooms and kind of busted the myth that they absorb water when you wash them. You shouldn’t soak them, but rinsing them is totally fine.
Another mushroom tip: egg slicers work really well to slice mushrooms, too!
As a biologist, I just wanted to clarify a few of your points about the biology of mushrooms. They are in the kingdom Fungi along with yeasts, but bacteria are in their own kingdom. Also, I’m not sure what you meant about a “superkingdom”, the next highest classification is called a domain or empire. There are two of these, Eukaryota, with includes all the kingdoms except Bacteria, and Prokaryota, which contains bacteria. So Fungi are included with both Plantae and Animalia the next level up. But yes, Fungi are probably more closely related to animals than plants in a cosmic sense.
I definitely learned some new things from this list – Good to know about B-12 but my favorite fact is that mushrooms make vitamin D!
The very thought of roasted mushrooms is making me think I’ll have to bike to the store to get some mushrooms.
Why are so many mushroom conoiseurs so averse to a quick rinse of mushrooms? They are going to be immediately cooked anyway, where the water is either cooked off if sauteed or they are cooked in a watery recipe anyway!
I love mushrooms too, and had the most divine grilled pine mushrooms while at Kings X markets the other day. Shannon, The Mushroom Man, had got a handful in, and we chucked them on the bbq, coated with some olive oil, rosemary and garlic and grilled. They were divine!
Thanks for the scientific rigour reminder – I know some of the health claims attributed to food in Japan are outrageous.
I remember seeing something about that myth being busted – still if they don’t need washing why do it?
It’s been many years since I studied biology – and thanks for picking me up on the facts here – really appreciate it
I’d like to get to know your musheoom man – will have to check out the Kings X markets soon…. your BBQ sounds delish
Canberra growers markets, excellent!
My partner has called me ‘shroom girl’ on many an occasion, due to my (obsessive) love of them :) I am going to give your roasted mushies a whirl tonight.
Orchid64, I don’t know much about Japanese studies in particular, but I’d be careful thinking that American ones are any less biased or agenda-driven. People read what they want to read, and those studies are fodder for that type of behaviour. It even happens here, as you can see by Caren’s comment above “I never knew they were high in Vitamin D…”. Jules never said they were high in it, she said they are able to make it.
I love mushrooms in all forms and your roast mushrooms look divine.
Mushrooms are certainly a wonderful ingredient with amazing properties. The most amazing of all being the maitake mushrooms, for their wonderful anti-cancer properties which we are only just beginning to understand.
thanks for picking up the thing about vitamin D – thats the thing – they can make it when exposed to light but many are grown in the dark so not necessarily a rich source…
and you’re right about the limitations of science and studies… human nature does tend to muddy the waters.
I haven’t tried maitake mushrooms – would love to get my hands on some.
Mushrooms are just fabulous. And these look great – I love them cooked like this as an alternative BLT. My only problem is getting my kids to eat mushrooms – I’ve managed a few ingredients that surprise some people, but they will not eat these – unless I tell them they’re slugs… All other ideas on how to get them to enjoy mushrooms gratefully received – my mental pictures are too strong to enjoy eating them together now.
Oh holy monkey! Do you live in Canberra? The miraculous, ever-inspirational, I-only-just-found-your-blog-but-I’m-addicted-to-it Jules is in my neck of the woods?!
And, most importantly, which markets can I get these magical mushrooms at? The Sunday EPIC market? :D
I love mushrooms as well. I love to saute them in butter, thyme, garlic, and rosemary. I just eat them by themselves, or maybe with rice.
I worked in a restaurant where we made mushroom risotto, and I would eat have of them before the night was over….praying that we didn’t have that many risotto orders so I wouldn’t get yelled at by the chef!
Thanks for the information on mushrooms! Never knew they were so good for you– I too am a mushroom lover!!
Love your mushroom risotto story. cute
My Dad lives in Canberra and yep got the mushrooms at EPIC on saturday. I actually divide my time between Sydney and Cooma so am padding through all the time.
and yay – so glad you’re enjoying stonesoup!
sorry I can’t help out with the children-mushroom thing. very impressed with your creativity on the slug front though – hopefully someone else will have some suggestions.
Jules, you were spot on with the aromas that come from roasting mushrooms, that was amazing!
I had a bit of a muddled day yesterday, so rather than your exact recipe I ended up with large ‘ordinary’ mushrooms, drizzled in olive oil, topped with sliced garlic and *gasp* dried thyme (gimme a break I’m staying in my bf’s house at the moment!!). It was still delicious, and as you said, the smell as I took them out of the oven was fantastic. I roasted some asparagus too (put the spears in at the same time as I took the foil off the ‘shrooms), and even they had a sort of smoky flavour to them, as if taken from their oven-mates. Manonwheels was very happy between all that and a tender t-bone :)
We are off to Newcastle for a wedding this Saturday but I think I’ll have to finally check out the markets the following week. I’ll be in my new kitchen by then!
i’ve only recently come around to mushrooms, but now i totally love them. i’m going to make your recipe asap!
glad you’ve joined the mushroom lovers club!
LOVE your idea of roasting asparagus with the mushies – brilliant
when you get to the markets, keep an eye out for ‘grandma’s eggs’ – it’s my cousin Maureen and I can personally vouch for how much she loves her chickens AND how good her eggs are!
Jules – beautiful work with these mushrooms – simple (of course) but looks so delicious. I’ll have to try it. Canberra – my old home town – I miss access to places like the Farmers Market!
That is really good news about your cousin and her chooks because on the top of my list of ‘sussing out Canberra’ is to find a local egg supplier. Thanks so much!
Hi Jules – I’ve just been doing a bit of research on mushrooms and Vitamin D. US growers expose their mushrooms to flashes of ultra violet light to step up the Vitamin D. Australian growers are planning to do the same and these Vitamin D-fortified mushrooms are likely to be available here early next year. Here’s my link – http://cookingdownunder.com/articles/2010/392.htm Cheers!
awesome pat – thanks for the update. interesting stuff!
This is for Claire: 2 ways of getting kids to eat more mushrooms are – chop them up very very finely and sneak them in to meat dishes, soup pasta sauce and gradually add them in larger pieces and eventually whoel wonce they are over not wanting to eat them- OR (I am not joking, this has worked for friends – and yes we were inspired by smurfs at the time) build a little village with raw mushrooms, cheese sticks, carrot white bread (path/sand/beach) and lettuce capsicum bits(olives on toothpicks as trees and grass. The mushrooms are houses the kids can be dinosaurs eating all the houses. This either works (and the veg get eaten, I know you shouldn’t play with food but…) or doesn’t and kids are traumatised by the idea of a monster eating their own house while they are away (I don’t know how old your children are, but if they think that slugs are a good way of eating them then they might enjoy being dinosaurs for a bit). Good luck.
you really are a creative gem – loving the smurfs + dinosaurs combo
This is embarrasing – one of my colleagues changed some of the letters on my keyboard yesterday and I did not notice! Sorry for all of the typing errors!
Nice post. Looks like a new source for my B12. Thanks.
I made the roast mushrooms last night – were delicious. I didn’t have any thyme, but found some Italian mixed herbs in the cupboard and it turned out great!
I didn’t even notice – that’s so funny that your colleagues are into the old practical jokes.
yay – so glad you liked the mushrooms –
I love all your tasty food, but as a microbiologist I’m just going to point out that point 4 in your list is wrong. Fungi is a separate ‘kingdom’ to bacteria. Yeasts are fungi, bacteria are not.
thanks for the fact checking nat
taxonomy was never my strong suit!
It’s good to no there is people out there who love mushrooms as much as me.all this talk of mushrooms i got to go and cook some now.:-)
Yummy!!! I used to go mushroom picking when I live in Austria as a little girl and some would call me a mushroom expert. Now that I live in the Midwest I’ve been missing out on the wonderful porcinis and many more that I can’t even translate into the English language! I will def try our portobello recipe yum! I have an oven full of cremini with white wine parsley butter cooking as I type this….never roasted mushrooms before always sautee or used them in stuffings and salads. Tks for sharing!!
Very jealous of your mushroom picking prowess and bounty Kay!
it’s wonderful that mushrooms contain B12, however, they aren’t the only non-animal source to contain it.
I just tried this recipe with chestnut mushrooms and it was delicious! Thank you so much :)
Thank you for the helpful info!
That said, you are misinformed about umami. Umami is essentially the “5th” taste, one that combines sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. There is also an element of “mouth feel” to it. It should combine unctious (sp?) creaminess with crunch and “bite” (like eating a piece of meat or meaty fish).
Don’t use wikipedia for information- yes, I saw where you got the info and it’s not your fault that you were misinformed. Umami is a very important and illusive taste experience that apparently the “anyone” writing on wiki didn’t know about.
Otherwise your blog ROCKS!!!! Thank you!!!
You’re right Umami is essentially the 5th taste. As confirmed by scientists that found a fifth group of taste receptors on the human tongue. It however does NOT combine the quintessential (and more widely known) 4 tastes -sweet, salty, bitter, sour. If it was a combination of the four, you wouldn’t need a fifth type of receptor to discern them. Texture has nothing to do with it either, as glutamine and L-glutamine are specifically responsible for the “Umami” taste. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is an artificial attempt at stimulating these taste receptors. The japanese word “Umami” can be translated as “Savory Taste”, but a literal translation would be more close to “Yummy Taste”. Read into glutamine -its a flavor attributed to living things and describing mushrooms as tasting Umami, is NOT incorrect.
thx for the correction MK