Autumn’s Gifts: Mushrooms

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Autumn is the season of quinces, baked corn, pumpkins and Halloween, hot cups of tea and cold rain, steaming pie and grapes, the season of all housewives and ripe vegetables, ready for picking and put in a flavored vegetable stew for times less friendly to nature.

Particularly flavorful and healthy, but often overlooked in the basket of vegetables and fruits, mushrooms not only give taste, but also have a high nutritional value, fat-free and low calorie intake, exactly what we need to healthy pass through the cold months of fall and winter.

Mushrooms are among the oldest species appeared on earth and have sparked over time both gourmet appetites, and strange stories. The ancient Greeks were convinced that mushrooms appeared where lightning strikes the ground. In Egypt, they were considered immortal food, being consumed only by the pharaohs, and Romans believed the mushrooms to be a gift from Gods.

In our times, we have a different look over mushrooms. We leave aside ancestors’ legends and we present you below some useful things about this tasty and easy to prepare food:

1. Mushrooms have a special flavor, which is why they are used in many combinations of food without salt or other spices intake that cannot be consumed. In addition, the fifth taste, umami, which completes the palette of sweet, salty, sour and bitter, can be found in many foods, including mushrooms (ie varieties shitake and enokitake, that have been identified with the strongest umami flavor).

Mushroom Stew at Vatra Restaurant

2. Not coincidentally, mushrooms appear this season. They are an important source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, especially needed during the winter, when food sources are scarce or inaccessible. They contain B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid), essential for nervous system, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, which strengthens the immune system, lower blood cholesterol and have anti-tumor effects. Wood ear mushrooms can thin the blood, helping to prevent heart disease and strokes. They also contain vitamin D, important for bone health.

3. They do not contain any fat, sugar or salt and are over 90% water content. Adding mushrooms to daily meals can make you feel full without having to raise the calorie content, so are strongly indicated in diets.

4. Can successfully replace meat, because of the high protein content, thus easily used in fasting food receipes.

5. Mushrooms can be cooked in many ways: simple receipes (mushrooms on the grill, baked with cheese and greens, or in combinations of vegetables that you can also find in the Vatra menu), soups and soufflés, mushroom stews and tarts, omelettes and meatballs, savory combinations of chicken, beef and vegetables.

6. Mushrooms are easily preserved for winter: in vinegar, brine, combinations of stews, sauces and vegetable stew (zacusca), or sun-dried, and then rehydrated to be used in food. Professional chefs advise us not to wash mushrooms in abundance, because they behave like sponges (absorb water and then they are not as good in food), to cook them in oil or butter over medium or high heat and also without a lid, in order to let the water evaporate.

Nutritionists recommend we eat mushrooms at least twice a week and even replace meat in recipes with mushrooms, to keep cholesterol under control.

If you are mushrooms fans, we invite you to share with us what combinations or recipes do you prefer using mushrooms in.
Good appetite!

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