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From portobello to shiitake mushrooms, it’s time to put fungi on your plate

September 21, 2022

Mushrooms are having a moment, whether it’s the recent documentary “Fantastic Fungi” or their newfound trendiness as a vegan leather. September is National Mushroom Month, but because of mushrooms’ fertile growing capabilities and versatility in many dishes, any month is a great one to be celebrating fungi.

Mushrooms are recyclers,” said Olga Katic, owner of Mushroom Mountain, a South Carolina mushroom farm and educational center. They can grow on natural byproducts, such as corn husks, wood chips, sawdust, seed hulls – and, yes, manure – that would otherwise be discarded.

Mushrooms are also a sustainable crop because they don’t need many resources to flourish. “They really do not require lots of water and don’t require a lot of space either,” Katic said. It takes only 2 gallons of water to grow one pound of mushrooms, versus approximately 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

Because mushrooms can be grown indoors, no farmland is necessary for crop production. One acre of space can produce 1 million mushrooms per year, according to the American Mushroom Institute. In addition, mushrooms emit very little carbon dioxide while growing – less than 1 pound per pound of mushrooms.

Beyond their benefits to the environment, mushrooms are great for our bodies, too. They’re a healthy source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals while being low in fat, cholesterol, and calories.

Mushrooms can be a potent source of vitamin D which can be “powered up” with sunlight, according to studies. “If you get some mushrooms from the store and expose their gills — the feathery ribs on the underside of the mushroom cap — to sunlight, their vitamin D content shoots up,” Katic said.

“There are so many interesting compounds in them,” Katic added, including selenium, potassium, and beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that can help fight heart disease and lower cholesterol. Read more:

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