Mushrooms: properties, qualities and uses in cooking

Mushrooms have useful properties for our health and are an important food because they do not contain fat and are rich in proteins, vitamins and mineral salts.

By Cookist
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Mushrooms are a "kingdom" of eukaryotic organisms, both unicellular and multicellular, the same to which yeasts and molds also belong. Also called mycetes, they have been classified, throughout history, also as plants; up to the (not unanimous) decision of the microbiological sector to classify them as a separate kingdom. Leaving aside the purely scientific notions, mushrooms are a product that lives in symbiosis with certain wild environments, but some species can also be cultivated. Excellent food for our health and particularly useful for those who follow a vegetarian diet, thanks to the large amount of protein. Mushrooms have numerous beneficial properties and are widely used in cooking. The species belonging to this genus are many and not all edible; among the best known from a food point of view there are porcini mushrooms, champignons, honey mushrooms, chanterelles and more, each with its unmistakable flavor. But let's find out what are the beneficial and nutritional properties of mushrooms, how to choose and preserve them at best and, above all, what are the best combinations and uses in the kitchen.

Nutritional values ​​of mushrooms

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Mushrooms are rich in proteins, vitamins and mineral salts, compared to a very low calorie content; just 26 Kcal per 100 grams. They contain water (92 grams), a lot of proteins (3.9 grams), fats (0.7 grams), carbohydrates (1 gram) and a good amount of fiber (2.5 grams). In particular, mushrooms are an excellent source of proteins, which contain important amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan, although they do not present a full spectrum like those of animal origin. This is especially important for those who have chosen a vegetarian diet, because it allows to integrate the deficiencies. Mushrooms are rich in vitamins, especially of the B group, such as vitamins B2 and B3; the first is important for the production of red blood cells and for the proper functioning of the metabolism, the second helps to oxygenate the blood and keep the nervous system healthy. They also contain many mineral salts, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, but also selenium, iron, manganese, according to the specific variety.

Beneficial properties of mushrooms

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Mushrooms, thanks to their nutritional properties, bring many benefits to our body. Here are which ones:

They strengthen the immune system; thanks to the vitamins and proteins, especially tryptophan and lysine, of which mushrooms are composed, and their antibacterial properties, they are excellent foods in the change of seasons, when the immune defenses are significantly lowered.

They are an aid to bone health. Mushrooms, when exposed to the sun, produce a lot of vitamin D, as happens in humans. Vitamin D is essential because it helps our body absorb calcium making our bones stronger.

Antioxidants. Mushrooms contain antioxidant substances that help slow down aging, counteracting the harmful effects of free radicals, also thanks to minerals such as selenium. In addition, potassium helps to keep blood pressure in check.

Mushrooms promote weight loss. Thanks to the low calorie intake and water content and chitin, which makes them satiating foods, they are suitable for those who follow a low-calorie diet.

Mushrooms are useful in case of anemia. The good iron levels contained in mushrooms make them suitable for anemia and iron deficiency. In addition, mushrooms contain beta glucans which improve insulin resistance.

Mushrooms are good for the beauty of skin and hair. Also thanks to selenium, mushrooms make the skin radiant and elastic, and it is also useful for making hair and nails stronger.

Types of edible mushrooms

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On the market it is possible to find cultivated mushrooms or that grow spontaneously in the woods. Among the edible mushrooms to be used in the kitchen we have:

Porcini mushrooms. They are a very fine type, with light flesh and firm consistency. With an irresistible scent, they are very "famous" mushrooms for their unique flavor; very versatile in the kitchen, they are often combined with more "noble" ingredients and dishes.

Honey mushrooms. Among the most used in cooking, they appear as groups of small "nails"; their flesh is firm and fibrous and they have a bitter taste. The edible part, in this case, is the hat, while the stems can be indigestible;

Poplar mushrooms. They are thin mushrooms with white and callused flesh; they are therefore suitable for recipes that require a long preparation. Also excellent in polenta or in meat stew;

Caesar’s mushrooms. Among the most prized varieties, they are also excellent raw, thanks to the firm and delicate pulp at the same time. They can therefore also be used for the preparation of salads or carpaccio;

Field mushrooms. A variety that is easily cultivated, perhaps the most famous type of all. Used in many preparations, thanks to their pleasant flavor, which goes well with different dishes, from meats to eggs.

Pleurotus mushrooms. Also known as "oyster mushrooms", they have a white stem and a brown cap. They are very versatile in the kitchen thanks to their fibrous and resistant flesh;

Chanterelles. They have a wavy and irregular cap and white and fibrous pulp and are ideal for cooking in a pan. They are often included in the mushroom mixes that you find on the market.

Mushrooms in the kitchen: how to use them

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Mushrooms lend themselves to many different preparations; they can be enjoyed fried in a pan or baked in the oven, but there are many recipes with mushrooms that can be made. They are also often used to flavor seasoning sauces or broth, both vegetable and meat, thus making the preparations tastier. Champignon mushrooms are among the most used, also because they are available all year round, but porcini mushrooms are certainly among the most loved; you can find them fresh between May and November. They are very suitable in the preparation of sauces, but also sautéed, fried or to be enjoyed in an exquisite pureed soup. In general, however, mushrooms go well with soups, pasta, rice, potatoes, but also as a filling for ravioli. The advice is to buy them only from trusted retailers, checking that they are intact, before buying them.

Side effects

Mushrooms cannot be eaten if you suffer from allergies or if they are poisonous. Moreover, they can be poorly digested due to mycosin.

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