This article originally appeared in Optimum Wellness, Spring 2019, page 9
On the trend beat, there is always the hunt for the “next kale,” or, the next superfood that will explode in popularity and appear in foods far beyond its native habitat. Could the humble mushroom be the one? It’s quite possible! Mushrooms are indeed sprouting up in beverages, snacks, bars, and meals, adding just the kind of great taste and beneficial nutrients many are seeking.
At first glance, mushrooms have plenty going for them. They are fat-free, low in calories, contain protein, fiber, and nutrients including Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, selenium, and riboflavin. But look more closely to uncover the medicinal benefits of mushroom varietals like shiitake, reishi, lion’s mane, and chaga. These types have long been used to heal and promote wellness in ancient Asian medicine traditions.
Today, medicinal mushrooms in powder form are enhancing foods and beverages that support stress, immunity, inflammation and mental clarity. There are supplements featuring functional mushrooms but also interesting new foods and drinks. Mushroom coffees and blended beverages are found on wellness-oriented menus and made at home. Ancient-grain granola maker Purely Elizabeth produces Grain-Free Bars containing tasteless reishi mushroom powder. Reishi are also found in ready-to-drink elixirs from Rebbl and Choice Organic Teas. Republic of Tea created a line of SuperAdapt Teas featuring reish, chaga and cordyceps paired with spices like ginger and cinnamon.
More familiar mushrooms, like shiitake and portabella, are being transformed into a range of snacks that promote plants, or rather fungi in this case. Toothsome mushroom jerkies deliver a meaty umami-rich experience while crispy mushroom chips and airy mushroom “cracklings” offer unique snack options. Bold flavors range from salt & pepper to barbecue to pizza and can go all the way to black truffle for an elegant turn, especially on a potato chip.
A most inventive application for more everyday mushrooms is using them in ground meat and burgers to replace a portion of meat. Monterey Mushroom’s Let’s Blend Finely Diced Mushrooms come in several flavors to blend in seamlessly into burger patties, taco fillings, and pasta sauces, reducing fat and cholesterol while upping the plant quotient in a meal.
Don’t forget all the delicious mushrooms easily found in frozen meals beyond pizza. Boomerang’s Spinach and Mushroom Pie is a take on popular Australian hand pies suitable for vegetarians. Grainful Mushroom & Chicken grain bowl uses oats as a base for a unique and hearty twist. Of course, an ever-widening variety of fresh mushrooms is always available to enhance meals from morning omelets to lunch salads and dinner kabobs. It’s always a great time to hop on the mighty mushroom trend wagon.