HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr looks at the variety of mushrooms on offer.
Mushrooms have been grown commercially in New Zealand since the 1930s. Farmed mushrooms are now available to us year-round and they are the fourth most popular vegetable in New Zealand after potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce.
Mushrooms are a source of the B vitamins riboflavin, B6 and niacin, as well as the antioxidant mineral selenium and dietary fibre. Mushrooms also contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine which is produced exclusively in mushrooms and some bacteria.
Research from the US has found mushrooms can interfere with processes involved in atherosclerosis and cardio-vascular disease. Common white or portobello mushrooms are just as beneficial for heart health as their more exotic cousins.
- When buying mushrooms look for good colour and fresh upright gills. Avoid bruised or damaged mushrooms.
- Mushrooms can be eaten either raw or cooked.
- You do not need to peel mushrooms before eating them.
- Don’t discard mushroom stalks. They are full of goodness and flavour. Just chop off the tip if it looks tired.
- Wipe mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any growing medium sticking to them. Farmed mushrooms don’t need to be washed although they can be rinsed if necessary.
- After harvesting, mushrooms continue to grow so they need to be kept cool and allowed to breathe to last longer. Store mushrooms in the fridge, preferably in a paper bag to absorb moisture. Mushrooms will sweat in a plastic bag.
- Mushrooms bruise easily so handle them with care.
- Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for 20-30 minutes until soft before using.
Cooking with mushrooms
- Mushrooms are great for vegetarian dishes where you are after a ‘meaty’ flavour and texture. Add mushrooms to pasta sauces, lasagne and soups.
- Mushroom paté is a delicious, healthy dip. Sauté portobello mushrooms in a little oil with garlic, salt, pepper and tarragon. Whiz in a blender with extra-light cream cheese spread until smooth.
- Make mushroom stock for soups and sauces by soaking dried mushrooms (shiitake or porcini) in hot water for half an hour or more. Use the liquid as you would chicken or vegetable stock.
The immature white mushroom is also known as a button mushroom. It has a delicate flavour which intensifies when cooked.
The mature white mushroom has fully exposed brown gills and a dense meaty texture and robust flavour.
Also known as gourmet, crimini or a brown button mushroom, this variety looks just like a white button but with a light brown skin and white stem. This is an immature portobello mushroom.
Also known as brown flat or a field mushroom, the mature portobello has a meaty texture and deep rich flavour.
New Zealand has a small specialty-mushroom industry and varieties such as oyster, shiitake and enokitake (golden needle) mushrooms are grown. Shiitake, porcini and wood ear fungus are also found dried in supermarkets and Asian markets.
Truffles – pricey fungi
The truffle is a fungus which grows on and around the roots of certain types of trees such as Hazelnut, English Oak, and Holly Oak. New Zealand has over 100 truffle plantations (truffières). Périgord black truffles are the most popular and just a tiny sliver added to food provides their distinctive earthy flavour. Truffles command eye-watering prices — about $3700 per kilo.