By Cat, March 2015 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
- See also: 1. Miscellaneous menu; 2. Foods (About) Menu
- Includes: 1. Nutritional benefits; 2. How to Reconstitute dried mushrooms
I’ve always loved mushrooms, even as a child, because my Mom was crazy about them. There are a lot of wild, edible mushrooms that grow in the forests and fields of Montana, but unless you know what to look for, you may inadvertently pick a poisonous variety. For that reason, I buy commercially-grown and dried mushrooms when I want a special type, as the only types available fresh in the local grocery here are button and cremini mushrooms.
Nutritional benefits of mushrooms
Mushrooms have attributes in common with vegetables, beans, grains and meat. Note that they are gluten-free. They provide many important nutrients including protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins (see below for more), and also umami flavor (meat-like flavor) from glutamic acid in their protein. (1)
However, if you want the nutritional and/or medicinal benefits of the mushrooms, they must be tenderized by cooking. They have chitin-like cell membranes that are impenetrable by our enzymes, but the heat of cooking them breaks them down enough that our enzymes can do their work. (5)
Note that while they contain a form of vitamin D (D1 or ergosterol), it is not an active form in humans. However, it may provide some anti-cancer ability.
- B Vitamins: Mushrooms are rich in riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid; they are also rich in choline, which is related to B vitamins;
- Minerals: good source of copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium (plus others in lesser amounts);
- Fiber: predominantly alpha- and beta-glucans, stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent tumors from forming (3);
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory:
- Immune-system support: as a rich source of selenium, mushrooms improve immune response to infection by stimulating production of killer T-cells. (3) The long-chain alpha- and beta-glucans (fiber) are also important for immune system support.(4)
How to Reconstitute dried mushrooms
Once dried, mushrooms weigh very little, so when using them in recipes calling for fresh mushrooms, you have to take into account how much water they will absorb when reconstituted, and you will want to use a much larger bowl or jar than you might think. As a rule of thumb:
>>Dried mushrooms will reconstitute to 6 – 8 times their dry weight (2). For example, 4 oz of dried mushroom will reconstitute to 24 – 32 oz (1½ – 2 lb).
For the liquid, you can use filtered water, bone broth, stock, wine, or a combination.
You can heat the liquid to boiling, or just to skin temperature (about 95 degrees); or let it sit on the counter to warm to room-temperature. The hotter the liquid the faster they will soak it up, but the less flavor retained in the mushroom (the flavor goes into the hot liquid). For this reason, I use just warm water.
- Place mushrooms in a large bowl. Measure enough liquid to cover the mushrooms generously.
- Transfer the liquid into saucepan and warm to body temperature (test on your wrist) or to boiling. If using room temperature water, let it warm on the counter.
- Pour warmed liquid over mushrooms.
- Soak: if using skin-temperature liquid, soak for 30 minutes; if using room temperature water, they may need a longer soak; if using boiling liquid, soak 2 – 8 minutes.
- Strain, retaining the flavorful liquid for another use (such as a meat sauce).
- Pat the reconstituted mushrooms to remove surface moisture if you intend to sauce or roast them.
- Earthy.com on reconstituting dried mushrooms (earthy.com/Reconstituting-Dried-Mushrooms-W572.aspx
- Mushroom Info: mushroominfo.com/benefits
- Medical News Today: medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278858.php
- Mercola: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/13/mushroom-benefits.aspx
- MycoMedicinals, an Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, by Paul Stamets, assisted by C. Dusty Wu Yao; © 2002, 3rd edition