As we wait for spring temperatures to warm up and for our local farmers markets to offer more homegrown produce, we can turn to our favorite fungi for nutrition and flavor.
The not-so-humble mushroom is available year round, and our local indoor farm markets have vendors who offer a variety whenever we want them.
There are more than 2,000 varieties of mushrooms worldwide that are safe for humans to eat, which we do happily, in soups, salads, sautés, stir-fries, sandwiches and casseroles.
Mushrooms are considered a superfood, providing many important nutrients, including B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper, folate, riboflavin, protein and vitamin D. They also have few calories, plenty of fiber and can be good for digestion.
A clinical study by the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that eating shiitake mushrooms daily improves immunity and that common white button mushrooms may have anti-inflammatory capabilities. Some mushrooms contain antioxidants with cancer-fighting properties.
When the weather gets warmer, local mushroom aficionados will go into the woods after a rain and find some of their favorite varieties.
This is something that not everyone can do; there are too many mushrooms that can make you sick, so it’s better to leave mushroom picking to the experts.
If you want to taste locally grown varieties, buy from local mushroom vendors who do some foraging of their own. Christopher Darrah, who owns Mainly Mushrooms (mainlymushrooms.com) with his wife, Patty, is one such expert. He supplies mushrooms to local restaurants, farm markets and the Doylestown Food Market. He can be found at the indoor Yardley Farmers Market on April 6.
Other local vendors include Primordia Mushroom Farm at the Wrightstown Farmers Market.
Mushrooms are easy to cook in a mix of butter and oil, where they sauté quickly. They also can be cooked in wine or broth and with garlic or tossed in oil and roasted in the oven. Either way makes them into a simple side dish.
This quick and easy soup from allrecipes.com can become vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Creamy Mushroom Soup
¼ cup butter
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms
2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14.5- ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the shiitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms and shallots for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Mix in the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the chicken broth. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.
2. Stir in the half-and-half, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Heat through, but do not boil.