Mushrooms as strange as it may seem could be put in the category of a superfood, we tend to think of mushrooms as a vegetable but they are in fact neither a vegetable nor a fruit, they belong to the kingdom of fungi.
They are a rich source of building blocks vitamins and nutrients to promote overall good health. Mushrooms are one of those exceptions to the rule of thumb, we tend to think of
the more colourful fruits and vegetables and food generally as being the better for us. We are therefore pre-programmed to look upon foods that are bland in appearance as not very beneficial from the point of view of sustenance and health maintenance.
History of mushrooms as a food
We can be reasonably confident that mushrooms were recognised as a food dating back well before recorded history; some of the earliest indications of mushrooms as a food source feature in Egyptian hieroglyphics; the Egyptians prized them to such an extent that they were considered and decreed to be food for Royals only, the commoners were banned from the delight. Their use hundreds of years ago in South and Central America have been recognised, the ancient Romans recognised them as a food source.
Many other cultures including Russia, China, Greece and Mexico have a long standing tradition consuming mushrooms. It is not surprising due to the mysterious nature and growth of mushrooms that ancient cultures have developed cultural and religious beliefs and practices that involve the humble mushroom.
The cultivation of mushrooms is very likely to date back as far as 600 years; the Chinese and Japanese cultivate numerous varieties, but the most common varieties available to us in New Zealand the button mushrooms and the larger brown portobello varieties. It is generally accepted that the French recognised the potential of the humble mushroom and incorporated it into their cuisine. A farmer near Paris saw mushrooms growing out of his compost fertiliser; hiscuriosity resulted in the commercial cultivation. Mushrooms were marketed and sort after by nearby Parisian restaurateurs. The nickname Parisian mushroom was given to this delicacy. The word mushroom is derived from the french word for moulds and fungi. They were originally grown as a companion crop beneath racks of flowers, it was later discovered that the ideal environment was cool and dark; the cultivation then migrated to caves adjacent to Paris, abandoned mine shafts were also an ideal location.
Technology and skills gradually migrated through Europe and over to North America to the point that in little more than half a century the Dutch are the largest producers in Europe, producing over a quarter million tonnes per year. Mushroom cultivation provides employment for tens of thousands of people in Europe alone.
Mushrooms contain choline a nutrient that supports sleep, memory and learning, muscle motion and flexibility; choline is a natural anti-inflammatory promoting the uptake of healthy fatty acids, supporting cellular membrane health, structure and function.
Mushrooms are a rich source of B group vitamins including, niacin B3, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid and thiamine. They are also a source of vitamin D, selenium, potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus. The cell walls of mushrooms contain a fibre (beta-glucans) that has been studied for its properties that improves blood cholesterol levels and insulin resistance which lowers obesity risk and boosting immune response.
Sherried Mushroom Chicken
1 Cooked Chicken
1 tin of mushrooms (whole or in brine)
1 cup sherry
1 packet mushroom soup
1 cup cream
2 cups milk
1 tsp curry powder
Remove chicken meat from the bones and place the chicken in a casserole dish.
Place the mushrooms on top.
Put mushroom soup, cream, curry powder and milk in a saucepan and heat until it thickens stirring frequently.
Add the sherry and pour the mixture over the chicken.
Cook in the oven for one hour gently stir occasionally at 180°c.