The story behind our mushrooms
Produce Buyer Colin Lyons shares the story behind our delicious selection of mushrooms, plus two hot new trends for cooking with mushrooms:
Earthy, meaty, rich, woodsy.
These are all adjectives commonly used to describe mushrooms and their eating characteristics.
When you think about it, this is a huge departure from the rest of the produce department, where you describe things as sweet, tart, tropical or bright. This contrast is one of the qualities that makes mushrooms such a fun produce item.
Mushrooms also contain what is referred to as the fifth basic taste: Umami. Umami is known as the savory taste that is very different from saltiness. Umami brings to food an almost indescribable “yum” factor that many foods don’t offer.
Mushroom farms can be found from New York to California, but the majority of the U.S. production, and incidentally most of our mushrooms, come from southeastern Pennsylvania in Chester County. We also have many locally-grown mushrooms from our partner, Forest Mushrooms, Inc., located in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Forest Mushrooms is a family-owned and -operated company engaged in research, cultivation and distribution of edible specialty mushrooms. They specialize in the production of oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, as well as the procurement and foraging of wild mushrooms from around the country and in our own backyard. Kevin Doyle and his partners opened Forest Mushrooms in 1985 and nearly 30 years later are still growing top-quality mushrooms in the sustainable way they always have. From Pennsylvania to Minnesota, we have partnered with only the best mushroom growers to bring you a bounty of varieties.
The list of health benefits is quite extensive. Mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, including:
- Riboflavin – helps maintain healthy red blood cells
- Niacin – promotes healthy skin, aids in the digestive and nervous systems
- Pantothenic acids – helps with the production of hormones
Mushrooms are also an important source of minerals including:
- Selenium & Ergothioneine – both antioxidants important to cellular health
- Copper – helps in the creation of red blood cells, aids in bone and nerve health
- Potassium – helps control blood pressure, aids in heart and other muscle function
While nutrition is certainly important, let’s get to the fun stuff – flavor!
Mushrooms come in many varieties with their own unique textures and flavors. Their variety is what makes mushrooms so versatile and able to be incorporated in many different dishes. While white mushrooms have typically been the top sellers in the mushroom category, we are currently experiencing a “coup de fungi.” Baby bella or crimini mushrooms are challenging the whites every day in sales and popularity, possibly because people are looking for more flavor in their mushrooms. Baby bellas offer a deeper, earthier flavor, but both have similar nutritional value. As you peruse the mushroom display in our stores, look for other varieties to use in your cooking. You will find delicate, crunchy enoki, rich meaty shiitake and everything in between.
What’s trending in mushrooms?
There are new ideas coming out of the mushroom culinary world that will get your creative juices flowing. The two new buzzwords are “swapability” and “blendability.” Swapability is the idea that you can swap out ground beef, poultry or pork for finely chopped, sautéed mushrooms. This could create a vegetarian option for those iconic favorites like tacos, meatballs, or really any other meal with ground meat. Instead of completely replacing the meat, blendability means incorporating chopped, sautéed mushrooms into ground meats to get more meal from less meat and to add all of the nutritional benefits that we talked about earlier. For example, mixing a pound of ground beef with a pound of chopped, sautéed mushrooms will yield about 6-8 burgers with texture consistent to an all meat burger, but with increased juiciness and flavor.
The possibilities are truly endless! How do you use your mushrooms? If you’d like some recipe ideas, check out The Mushroom Council.