Mushrooms were already known in ancient Greece, they were valued gastronomically and a multitude of species were collected. In Rome they were also used, not only culinary but also for their medicinal and toxicological properties. Its cultivation is not known until the seventeenth century in France.
The mushrooms are part of a group of organisms called fungi including also find the yeasts and molds. Mushrooms are a wide world of specimens with very diverse characteristics, with different colors, sizes, flavors and general properties. For human consumption there are important differences between them such as the fact that some are edible and, moreover, highly appreciated, and others are toxic and even fatal.
It is very important to highlight this fact because every year poisonings occur due to the consumption of mushrooms. The tradition, custom or hobby for collecting mushrooms can be very interesting and beneficial, but only if the forest and its animal and plant species are respected and if the type of mushrooms to collect is well known.
Nutritious but not very energetic
Although they are not really considered plants, nor animals, since they have characteristics that differentiate them from both kingdoms, from the nutritional point of view they are classified within the large group of vegetables . Like most vegetables, they have a significant water content so they provide us with few calories .
They contain more protein than vegetables in general and a lower amount of carbohydrates. Regarding their mineral content, like most vegetables they provide a not inconsiderable amount of potassium . In addition, mushrooms are rich in iodine, an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland . Potassium acts, among other things, at the level of nerve impulse transmission. Regarding vitamins, we can highlight group B vitamins , especially riboflavin or vitamin B2 and niacin or vitamin B3 .
Riboflavin is responsible, among other things, for the production of antibodies and red blood cells and for the maintenance of the mucous membranes. Niacin, for its part, intervenes in the use of immediate principles (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), in the formation of sex hormones, etc.
Mushrooms constitute a group of species that each year cause food poisoning . This is due to the consumption of specimens that have not been properly identified and have toxic effects. In most cases, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea and more or less severe gastrointestinal disorders , they can also cause headaches or allergic reactions, but there are types of mushrooms with high toxicity that can cause death.
For all these reasons, it is very important not to collect, much less consume, any mushroom whose identification is doubted. We should not trust popular beliefs such as that if they are bitten they are not toxic, since toxicity is different for each species and humans are sensitive to toxins that for other animals are not a problem.
How to take them?
They are increasingly consumed in more diverse dishes and a greater variety of species, in part due to the multiculturalism that has led us to know mushrooms such as shiitake of Asian origin. We can take mushrooms in the most traditional style in stews with meat such as fricandó, or with fish but they can also be taken with legumes, in sautéed vegetables that can be taken alone or with rice or noodles, along with pasta, in soups , in creams, in scrambled eggs, in salads , in cannelloni or lasagna, in pizas, in vegetable cakes, etc. The versatility of these foods is as wide as the variety of specimens that are consumed.
Who are they suitable for and who are not?
Mushrooms in general can be appropriate for everyone and especially for people who take care of their figure. Of course, we must consider that sometimes they can be difficult to digest, especially raw. They are suitable in:
- People who are overweight or obese. Mushrooms are low-calorie foods so they can be used in low-calorie diets to complement meats, salads, sauteed vegetables, etc., adding a touch of flavor while adding few calories to the diet.
- To avoid constipation. Due to their fiber and water content, they favor intestinal transit, helping to combat constipation. The amount of fiber can vary considerably between species, for example the chanterelle usually contains more than twice the fiber of the mushroom.
- Pregnant women and people with iodine deficiency. Iodine is an essential element for the functioning of the thyroid gland, in addition to being necessary for obtaining energy through nutrients. During pregnancy and lactation, iodine needs increase and therefore a sufficient intake must be ensured with foods rich in iodine such as fish and shellfish, iodized salt, some vegetables and mushrooms.
- For increased potassium needs. In some cases, due to certain drugs such as diuretics or in episodes of vomiting, potassium excretion is increased. Mushrooms are a good source of potassium and therefore are a food to take into account when we want to increase the intake of this mineral to complement these losses.
They are not suitable in case:
- Digestive difficulties Mushrooms are not characterized by being an easy product to digest, so in case of heavy digestions, etc. we must avoid mushrooms, especially raw or undercooked, tolerance can be observed when well cooked.
- Kidney failure and / or potassium-controlled diets. In certain pathologies, such as kidney diseases, we must often control potassium intake. In these cases we must limit or control the intake of fruits and vegetables in general and among them we will also have to consider the potassium contribution that mushrooms provide us.
- Hyperuricemia or kidney stones from uric acid salts. Hyperuricemia (high levels of uric acid in the blood) can be due to multiple factors. In any case, foods rich in purines can increase uric acid in the blood. Although there are products with higher levels of purines, a moderate consumption of mushrooms is recommended in people with a tendency to hyperuricemia or also to the formation of uric acid kidney stones, to avoid that said intake can promote episodes of gout or colic.
Buying and conservation advice
A mushroom is really a very perishable product . If we collect them, we must do so in a rigid and aerated container that prevents the appearance of molds and rot. The best option is usually the traditional wicker basket. We should only collect the specimens that we identify without any doubt and that are in good condition, that have not started to decompose or are “drowned”.
It must be borne in mind that after periods of rain the mushrooms can absorb water and modify their color even their texture. Once collected, it is preferable to clean them to remove dirt , stones, etc., but without soaking them excessively, and consume them shortly. As long as we do not consume them, we can keep them in a cool and ventilated place, or in the fridge for three or four days. There is also the option of keeping them for longer by freezing or pickling them, cleaned, chopped and cooked.
In addition to harvesting, nowadays we can buy cultivated, fresh, frozen, canned with oil, dried, etc., or even part of a prepared product.
We should not trust popular sayings to check the toxicity or edibility of mushrooms, such as cooking them with a silver coin and consider them edible if the coin does not turn black. In case of accidental toxicity, we must go to the hospital when noticing the first symptoms and to be able to be with a copy of the consumed mushrooms to be able to identify it toxicologically.What you should know…
- Season: in May and from September to November.
- Benefits: low energy, rich in fiber, potassium, iodine, riboflavin and niacin.
- Ideal for: low-calorie diets, pregnant women and people with high potassium and iodine needs.