WV Culinary Team: Only a fungi celebrates National Mushroom Month | Wv Culinary Team

Adella Miesner

September is National Mushroom Month, a designation created by the U.S. Mushroom Council as part of the Mushroom Promotion, Research & Consumer Information Act of 1990. President George H.W. Bush was instrumental in signing the act into law, but National Mushroom Month did not take effect until 1993. This is […]

September is National Mushroom Month, a designation created by the U.S. Mushroom Council as part of the Mushroom Promotion, Research & Consumer Information Act of 1990. President George H.W. Bush was instrumental in signing the act into law, but National Mushroom Month did not take effect until 1993.

This is the time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture embarks on a program to educate the public about the culinary uses and health benefits of mushrooms. Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and grow from carbon and energy from dead plants.

Mushrooms are both poisonous and non-poisonous. Edible mushrooms are harvested and eaten around the world.

Hieroglyphics found in Egyptian tombs indicate mushrooms represented immortality and were eaten by the elite. Other early civilizations valued mushrooms for what they believed were medicinal qualities. Mushrooms have been used to treat all sorts of ailments as part of traditional Chinese medicine.

Today, mushrooms are being studied and new data suggests they may have protective effects for mild cognitive impairment. Ongoing research shows they may help delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mushrooms contain a multitude of nutrients and are a good source of potassium, zinc, and vitamins B and D. They are low in calories and sodium. They contain no fat or cholesterol (unless you sauté them in lots of butter).

Most of the mushrooms found in local grocery stores and all of the mushrooms found at West Virginia farmers markets are cultivated. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has plans to change legislation which would allow the sale of foraged mushrooms like chanterelles and morels by certified individuals who have passed stringent identification exams.

Mushrooms have a rich, meaty texture and umami flavor. (“Umami” is the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter.) They boost the flavor of soups, stews, pastas, pilafs, omelets, meats and more.

An old myth abounds that one should never wash mushrooms, because they will absorb water. Some maintain they should only be brushed or wiped, one at a time, with a soft brush or towel.

Mushrooms are 90 percent water and, if washed quickly, won’t absorb enough water to matter, according to chefs Mark Bittman and Martha Stewart.

There is still plenty of time to celebrate Mushroom Month. Stop by the farmers market and purchase some beautiful locally grown mushrooms.

And, if you really want to honor National Mushroom Month, try growing some mushrooms at home.

Susan Maslowski founded and operates Mud River Pottery studio in Milton, where she has created utilitarian ware for nearly 40 years. She sells produce and serves on the board of The Wild Ramp, and is an advocate for local foods and farmers. She also writes the Farmer’s Table cooking column for the Gazette-Mail’s Metro section. Susan can be reached by email at mudriverpottery[email protected]

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