The Day of the Mushroom: An ode to the mighty mushroom

Are you what people might call a fun guy? This past Saturday, April 16th, is officially known as The Day of the Mushroom! And if that’s not reason enough to celebrate your favourite fungus then consider some of these surprising and interesting facts you may not have known about this delicious, and sometimes downright weird, food item:

  • One of the best known qualities about mushrooms: they’re a great source of vitamin D. Mushrooms that grow with exposure to sunlight generate this vitamin that supports calcium absorption and strong bones. Even regular retail mushrooms at your local grocery can pack over 20% of your daily vitamin D intake. Mushrooms are also highly rich in antioxidants and minerals, for a healthy heart and immune system.

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  • Reporting last year in December, the Nation’s Restaurant News predicted that mushrooms would take centre stage in famous restaurant entrees in 2016. Besides their health benefits, mushrooms “cost less than meat, are low in calories, have micronutrients” and are well known umami bombs. Check out this handy Blend technique to blow your burgers out of the water using the power of mushrooms!
  • Mushrooms are part of growing trends in the kitchen that see them added to just about everything for their ability to preserve moisture in most dishes, keeping them rich and juicy. You can add mushrooms to your marinated meats for a tremendously flavourful finish, as unlike most other vegetables, mushrooms soak in the flavours of sauces and marinades surprisingly well.
  • Humans have a deep historical connection to mushrooms; in every inhabited continent on earth, our ancient ancestors used them for everything from a convenient, easy-to-grow source of food to traditional ritualistic practices to early medicine. You may have heard how the ancient Egyptians revered mushrooms as the plant of immortality. Ancient Peruvian cultures associated mushrooms with persons of high stature, like shamans and sacrificial victims. Chinese medicinal documents thousands of years old praise mushrooms as the most valued ingredient, known as the herb of eternal life.
  • Get to know the nine varieties of edible mushrooms and you’ll never run afoul of these fungi. White button, cremini, wild mushroom, maitake, beech, portabella, shiitake, enoki and oyster mushrooms are all fairly common and can be eaten safely. If you love mushrooms you may be tempted to go hunting for certain prized varieties such as truffles, morels or chanterelles, but don’t go without a trained mycologist in tow. These mushroom experts can determine which fungi are poisonous and which are not, since they often look very similar in the wild.

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  • Psychoactive properties can be found in special types of mushrooms containing naturally occurring psychedelic compounds like psilocin and psilocybin. At least 144 species of mushroom containing these mind-altering compounds have been identified since 2005 and can be a fairly common find; these mushrooms were found growing in the royal gardens at Buckingham Palace. Hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms have been the focus of intensive brain research, where they may serve as a natural way of treating numerous psychological disorders.

Now that you’ve learned about the mighty mushroom, make sure to celebrate The Day of the Mushroom!

Thinking about changing up your menu for spring? Consider adding mushrooms to the menu! Here are some swap-outs that you can do – and offer your customers a different flavour, and option.