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A Brief Overview Of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are an ingredient of various cuisines and dishes. Although they may mistakenly be categorized as vegetables, mushrooms are a type of fungus.
When it comes to mushrooms, there are two types of people. Mycophilic individuals have an affinity for mushrooms. Mycophobic individuals dislike mushrooms, or have an active fear of them!
There are a wide range of edible mushroom species, all with varying properties and flavors. The most commonly consumed mushroom today is the button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus.
One of the most expensive foods in the world is the truffle, a species of mushroom. Truffles grow 3-12 inches underground beside the roots of large trees, like oak and chestnut.
These mushrooms are highly priced due to the arduous process of harvesting them. Specially trained dogs or pigs must sniff out the truffles, as they are not visible above ground.
Then, the truffles must be collected with great care. Handling truffles barehanded can cause them to rot. If the truffles are unripe, the truffle-farmer will bury them again and return at a later date.
Mushrooms in History
In the past, mushrooms were reputed to possess mysterious and potentially magical properties. Historical evidence reveals hallucinogenic mushrooms were consumed by Vikings and ancient Siberians during religious ceremonies.
Spanish conquistadors in Mexico during the early 15th century observed the natives using mushrooms in their ceremonies. Spanish priests would take record of what they believed to be “prophetic” visions had by the natives.
Mushrooms are high in protein and essential vitamins and minerals. For this reason, they were highly valued in certain forms of traditional medicine.
Mushrooms were likely first cultivated in Asia in the 7th century. It was only in the mid 16th century Mushrooms gained popularity in the Western world, through France.
When the French began using mushrooms as a staple ingredient, the rest of Europe began embracing mushrooms. By the end of the 19th century, mushrooms were being eaten in America as well. (Source)
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Before delving into how to best preserve mushrooms, let’s go explore why mushrooms are so healthy.
A cup of raw mushrooms is worth only 15 calories. Mushrooms do not contain fat and are low in sodium.
Mushrooms are also high in essential vitamins and minerals, such as:
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins (B1, B2, B, B5, and B9)
Mushrooms are the only dietary source of vitamin D for vegan individuals that is non-fortified. Selenium, which can promote enzyme function in the liver, is not found in many fruits and vegetables.
The high potassium and low sodium content of mushrooms is helpful for heart health. They can help lower blood pressure and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Mushrooms contain antioxidants, which can reduce free radicals in cells. Free radicals are chemicals that can harm cells over time.
Mushrooms are also rich in fiber, and contain two types of fibers. Chitin and beta-glucans reduce appetite and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Can You Freeze Mushrooms?
Mushrooms may be a tasty and healthy addition to your diet, but they have a relatively short shelf-life. Fresh mushrooms will keep for a maximum of one week in your refrigerator.
Canned mushrooms preserve for longer, but most people prefer the fresher alternative. Additionally, fresh mushrooms have fewer calories and more nutrients.
So, how can you preserve your mushrooms for longer?
Simple! Freeze them. It is possible to freeze mushrooms and preserve their flavor and quality.
If you’re going to freeze mushrooms, you should purchase them as fresh as possible for best results. To select ideal mushrooms, check that they both look and smell fresh.
Do a little research on the type of mushroom you’re buying beforehand. Check to see what a good-quality fresh mushroom of your preferred type should look like.
Fresh mushrooms should be moist with a pleasant, earthy odor. They should not have brown patches or spots.
Avoid mushrooms that are shriveled or look dry. If the mushrooms’ caps are curling or they look to be decaying, give them a pass.
Before freezing your mushrooms, it’s best to follow a few preparation guidelines. Mushrooms can be frozen either raw or cooked, depending on your preference.
If you’re freezing raw mushrooms, start by gently washing them to remove any residual dirt. Once they are clean and patted dry, follow these easy steps:
- Slice or dice up your mushrooms into small pieces. You don’t want to break apart a clump of whole frozen mushrooms!
- Lay out the cut up mushroom pieces neatly on a plate or on wax paper. Do not layer or pile up the mushrooms.
- Put the plate or wax paper with the mushrooms in the freezer for 2-3 hours.
- Remove the mushrooms from the freezer. Now that they are frozen in separate pieces, they won’t stick together.
- Put the frozen mushrooms into containers. It is preferable to use containers that hold a maximum of 1 cup worth of mushrooms.
Some mushroom species are better frozen raw, such as maitake mushrooms. Any wild mushroom that’s high in moisture (or slightly slimy) is also a good candidate for raw freezing.
Certain types of mushrooms are best cooked before they are frozen. Button and shiitake mushrooms tend to lose texture if they are frozen raw.
To freeze cooked mushrooms, begin by gently washing your fresh mushrooms. Once they are washed and dry, follow these instructions:
- Slice or dice up your mushrooms into small pieces.
- Heat up a small amount of butter or oil in a pan, on low-medium heat.
- Add the mushrooms, stirring frequently. The mushrooms will release and then reabsorb their liquid.
- Once the mushrooms are cooked, allow them to cool until they are room temperature.
- Put the mushrooms into containers and freeze. It is preferable to use containers that hold a maximum of 1 cup worth of mushrooms. (Source)
When you’re ready to use your mushrooms, just take them out of the freezer. They don’t need to be thawed prior to use. (Source)
Check out these mushroom recipes from our archives:
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