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Prairie Fare: Mushrooms Offer Unexpected Nutritional Value

Many people have strong feelings about mushrooms.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

At a recent banquet, I noticed one of my colleagues sliding all the mushrooms from her salad plate onto someone else’s plate. Then she offered up her tomatoes. All that remained on her plate was a pile of spinach.

I was amused as I watched this food transaction.

“Is this going to be a column?” someone asked.

“Keep talking,” I replied.

As I learned from the dinner conversation, many people have strong feelings about mushrooms.

“I don’t like the texture of mushrooms. Well, raw mushrooms are OK, but cooked ones are too mushy,” someone said.

Later, I asked another colleague what he thought about mushrooms because he hadn’t weighed in on the topic. I kind of knew what he would say.

“Why would anyone eat fungus?” he said.

From a horticulturist’s perspective, mushrooms are a fungus, but we nutrition specialists count them as vegetables.

I have a bit of a bias about mushrooms. Fungus or vegetable, I have always liked them.

I helped gather morel mushrooms in the woods as a kid. I competed with my sister to retrieve the most mushrooms from the bowl of steak and mushroom gravy on our family’s dinner table. Whenever I see portabella mushrooms on a restaurant menu, I am enticed to choose the item.

Mushrooms are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes, textures and colors. In fact, more than 38,000 different varieties of mushrooms exist. White button mushrooms account for 90 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the U.S.

Besides button mushrooms, you may find portabella, shitake, enoki, oyster or crimini mushrooms in some grocery stores. Mushrooms are available in dried and canned forms, too.

Mushrooms are not “nutrition all-stars” as vegetables are, but they have some interesting properties. They are low in calories at 20 to 50 calories per 3.5 ounces, depending on the variety. Most mushroom varieties provide the mineral copper. Research has shown that copper plays a role in maintaining heart health.

Mushrooms also provide some fiber, potassium, selenium and B vitamins, such as niacin, riboflavin and folate.

Buying mushrooms at the grocery store is the safest way to obtain mushrooms. Gathering mushrooms on your own in the outdoors should be done in consultation with an expert mycologist. Some wild mushrooms are poisonous.

When selecting fresh mushrooms, choose mushrooms with a uniform color and no major blemishes or signs of spoilage. Avoid mushrooms with a flat, open cap, moist gills (the area under the stem) and a cracked or wet stem.

Keep mushrooms refrigerated and use within a couple of days of purchase. Rinse them with cold water and use paper towels to blot them dry just before using them. When substituting fresh mushrooms for canned (which usually makes a major flavor difference), 1 pound of fresh mushrooms will yield the amount in 8 ounces of canned mushrooms.

Here's a tasty side dish featuring two ""love it or hate it"" vegetables.

Sauteed Spinach and Mushroom Side Dish

1 Tbsp. olive oil, not virgin (light colored)

4 small cloves/sections fresh garlic, peeled and chopped

1 (8-ounce) package fresh mushrooms, presliced, prewashed

Optional – 2 tsp. butter

Optional – 1/4 c. red, dry wine

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 bag fresh spinach (about 10 ounces)

Heat olive oil in bottom of 3-quart or larger frying pan. Add garlic. Saute garlic until just starting to brown. Add mushrooms and cook until just starting to brown. Add butter and/or wine if desired. Add thyme. Add spinach and cook for two to three minutes, tossing to mix. Do not overcook.

Makes five servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 5 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 4.5 g of fat and 3 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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