Many types of mushrooms have been cultivated as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Neither animal nor vegetable, mushrooms are a type of fungus. Mushrooms are saprophytes, which means they survive on decaying matter, such as logs, while improving soil quality.
Mushrooms can be cultivated at home and do not require light to grow. Mushrooms grow from spores that some theorize are of extraterrestrial origin. They also taste great. This article will examine three types of medicinal mushrooms, two of which are popular in cuisine. A recipe follows.
Maitake – Grifola frondosa (Meripilaceae)
Also called hen of the woods, maitake mushrooms grow in clusters at the base of trees. Native to Japan and North America, maitake were traditionally prized in Chinese medicine. Often growing to the size of basketballs, maitake mushrooms are rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium along with vitamins B2, D2, Niacin and amino acids. Maitake are known to enhance the immune system and to balance and regulate blood pressure, insulin, glucose, cholesterol, lipids and weight. Maitake mushrooms have adaptogenic properties.
Shiitake – Lentinula edodes (Marasmiaceae)
Known as flower mushrooms, Shiitake are native to China and Japan and have been cultivated for over 1000 years. Shiitake contain high amounts of Vitamin D along with a compound called Lentinan which is known to have anti-cancer properties. Shiitake have been used to treat upper respiratory disease, improve blood circulation, enhance liver function, battle exhaustion and to avoid premature aging. Shiitake enhance the immune system and increase resistance to such pathogens as influenza, West Nile virus and bacterial infections. Note that only the shiitake mushroom caps are edible as the stem is made from insoluble fiber. Shiitake mushrooms have anti-tumor properties.
Reishi – Ganoderma tsugae (Ganodermataceae)
Also referred to as the Lingzhi fungus, reishi mushrooms have been used medicinally for two thousand years and were first recorded by the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. Grown in Eastern Hemlock forests, two close species of Ganoderma (including lucidum and tsugae) are found on the stumps of deciduous trees. Reishi mushrooms contain ganoderic acids which are similar to steroid hormones. They also contain polysaccharides such as beta-glucan, coumarin, mannitol and alkaloids. Not suitable for cooking due to their bitter taste, thinly sliced reishi are added to a pot of boiling water and simmered for two hours. Red reishi tea is more bitter than black. Reishi have anti-inflammatory properties.
Recipe: Maitake and Asparagus over Rice
Boil 2 cups (filtered) water and add 1 cup Jasmine rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 Tbsp high temperature oil (ex. Coconut oil, lard or a butter/olive oil blend).
Add 2 cloves fresh garlic (pressed), 1 shallot (minced).
Add a pinch of both mustard seed and celery seed (or any two spices)..
Add 1/2 cup fresh (or reconstituted dried) maitake to garlic butter.
Sautee mushrooms on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring with a stainless steel spoon often.
Add about a dozen asparagus spears and 1/2 cup of filtered water.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer vegetable mix for 5 minutes while rice finishes cooking.
Remove rice and vegetables from heat and let both stand covered for 5 minutes.
Fluff rice with fork and add 1/4 tsp each of Sea Salt, Paprika, Cayenne and Dill.
Serve mushrooms (sliced) and asparagus with resulting broth over rice.
Garnish with Yogurt, Lemon wedge and Tekka.