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Food of the month - Mushrooms

August 2015

The Surprising Nutrients in Mushrooms

Today few of us think of mushrooms as being seasonal – after all the supermarkets and shops are full of mushrooms all year round.

Also, while many of us like to search out local produce, mushrooms rarely come into that category; we often simply buy whatever is available, or seek out the most fashionable type of the moment – in recent years of course this has been shiitake.

But once you start learning more about mushrooms, it is amazing the variety that is available (see list below). It is also exciting to realise that is really is quite easy to go out and forage for your own mushrooms. If that is something you want to do, then September to November is your best time in the UK although several types of mushrooms, including Prince, Penny Bun and Winter Chanterelle can all be found in August.

Previous Health Foods of the Month...

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But for most of us, we will simply by buying shop and market mushrooms – and what a lot of benefits this can bring too.

For a start, they contain as high an antioxidant capacity as carrots, tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins. They also contain selenium, something that is not always easy to find in normal fruits and vegetables (selenium is a mineral that plays a role in liver enzyme function and is also thought to help prevent inflammation as well as offer other benefits).

Mushrooms are the only vegan, non-fortified dietary source of vitamin D which we all need as an essential in normal health; and they also contain folate (which plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair), thiamine, panthothenic acid and niacin. Add to all that is the fact that mushrooms provide a range of additional beneficial minerals such as potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus.

Further good news about these amazing fungi is that they are high in potassium and low in sodium; this is useful to help keep blood pressure under control.

Finally, mushrooms contain two types of dietary fibres in their cell walls, beta-glucans and chitin, which can help you feel full so are really useful in diet control.

But being good for us is a bit of a bonus, because for most people mushrooms are included in their diet for flavour and to add texture and contrast in a dish. Washed, they can be sliced to add to salads and cold meals; or cooked gently and served hot. Many recipes include mushrooms, from quiches to casseroles.

When you buy mushrooms from a shop, you can be reasonably sure they are fully edible and will taste great.

If you are thinking of picking your own, first it is important to check you know what you are looking for. There are around 15,000 types of wild fungi in the UK and many of them can look surprisingly like normal mushrooms but in fact may be dangerous to eat. Also some fungi are protected in the UK, so again it is important to know what you are picking.

So always be absolutely certain of what you have picked; it may be safer to go on one of the many wild food special events that are held at various locations around the country.

A good source of information about mushrooms is the following and they also list a range of foresting trips coming up around the UK.
www.wildfooduk.com/mushroom-guides
The following site also gives lots of useful information re identifying mushrooms:
www.mushroomdiary.co.uk/mushroom-identification

 


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