Mmmm is for mushroom

March 10 2015

When thinking about healthy foods, fruits and vegetables are usually the first things to come to mind with their vibrant colours and diverse flavours. However, one ingredient that shouldn't be left out of a healthy menu is the mushroom.

Mushrooms are very low in calories, are fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. They're also full of important nutrients like riboflavin and potassium. Plus, they contain essential minerals such as selenium, copper and zinc.

Although mushrooms are typically grouped with fruits and vegetables, they actually fit into meals more like meat due to their umami flavour. In many dishes, such as meat-based sauces and ground beef dishes, mushrooms can be chopped up finely to provide a more meaty texture and flavour.

Mushrooms are also a flexible ingredient that can be used in a huge array of dishes - and at any meal time. For breakfast, they work well in omelettes, or just fried up on their own. Cream of mushroom soup is a delicious accompaniment to a sandwich or salad at lunch, while a mushroom-loaded beef stroganoff is a wonderful dinner entree. What's more, mushrooms are a favourite for vegetarian dishes, giving meat-free meals extra substance and flavour - such as mushroom burgers or stuffed mushrooms.

With so many ways to prepare and enjoy mushrooms, it's also important to have an idea of the different types. These little fungi come in a huge range of varieties, each with their own unique flavour and appearance. Here are a few of the more popular types.

  • Chanterelles - These funnel-shaped mushrooms have a fruity aroma and come in colours ranging from dark brown to yellow and white.
  • White mushrooms - One of the most common types of mushrooms, these come in an array of sizes, from tiny button mushrooms, which are harvested when they're young to maintain a mild flavour, to jumbo. The latter are ideal for stuffing with ingredients like cheese, breadcrumbs and bacon.
  • Oyster mushrooms - These have a peppery flavour and a trumpet shape.
  • Portobello - Growing up to six inches across, these large mushrooms are often used as a meat-free substitute for burgers. They can be grilled just like a hamburger and piled high with toppings like cheese, tomato and onion.
  • Shitake - A popular choice for stir-fries, these mushrooms have a distinct smoky flavour that goes well with ginger and garlic.