Mushrooms have been around for millennia, and they are a delicious part of any meal when cooked right. Although they are not for everyone, there is a lot to love about the humble mushroom. In this article, we look to dive into one of the great questions that mankind has pondered over for thousands of years; yes, you guessed it; today, we shed some light on whether or not a mushroom is a vegetable.
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The Great Debate
There has long been a debate among members of the food lover community about whether or not mushrooms can be classified as a vegetable. However, if forced to choose right now based on research and popular opinion and belief, then the answer is no, a mushroom is not a vegetable. Let’s explain why:
A vegetable tends to need light to grow and typically has leaves, roots, and seeds. The thing is, a mushroom has none of that. Mushrooms are actually classed as fungi, not a vegetable.
There is a little confusion around this area; however, why? Well, the US Department of Agriculture considers mushrooms to be a part of the vegetable family on the basis that they provide the same nutritional values as other veggies. This means that while science suggests that mushrooms are NOT vegetables, the US Government deems them to be vegetables. See where you might get confused?
The 3 Categories of Mushroom
As a general rule, mushrooms are divided into three different categories, each of them has their own characteristics, and some are more popular than others:
While these mushroom species reside on living trees, they don’t give anything back. Due to their parasitic nature, they take nutrients from a tree until it dies.
These mushroom species reside on organic matter such as plant roots, fallen leaves, and dead trees that parasitic mushrooms have killed. They extract nutrients such as minerals and carbon dioxide from organic matter.
This style of mushroom is the most common of all, and some classic styles of mushrooms, such as button mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms, are all Saprotrophic.
These form a symbiotic relationship with healthy, living tree roots. While they derive their nutrients from trees, they also give back by helping to form a healthier and bigger root system, so they are not nearly as selfish as their parasitic counterparts. Examples of mycorrhizal mushrooms are truffles, porcini, and chanterelles, all of which are edible (and delicious).
How to Add More Mushroom to your Diet
There is no hiding the fact that not everyone is a fan of mushrooms. They are certainly an acquired taste and leave a lot to be desired in terms of flavor. However, sometimes you just need to use your imagination and come up with fun and creative ways of including mushrooms in your dishes.
Mushrooms are said to offer a range of health benefits. Now while that is information for a whole different article, what we can say is that luckily for you, there are many different ways to get your mushroom fix in and avail of the benefits that come with these ‘vegetables’ or ‘fungi’.
Whilst you can buy mushroom supplements and teas, cooking with them is by far the most enjoyable way to get your mushroom fix. Most mushrooms can be sliced and sauteed in oil or with some butter (and a hint of garlic? it’s delicious, trust us), and they are also super low in calories and carbohydrates (we see you, Keto people). You can add them into stir-frys, pasta, and salads if you are feeling a little adventurous.
If you don’t want to buy fresh mushrooms and risk them going bad before you get a chance to use them, you can also get dried mushrooms. There is also the option of eating them raw (salads etc.), but just be careful because not all mushrooms can be eaten raw, and you’d rather be safe than sorry.
5 Fun Facts about Mushrooms
We know what you are thinking. How can they put the words ‘fun’ and ‘mushroom’ in the same sentence? Well, make no mistake about it; we just did! Here are some fun and interesting facts about mushrooms that we bet you didn’t know.
- There exists a mushroom in North America that is said to taste EXACTLY like fried chicken! Now there’s a mushroom we wouldn’t mind getting into our diet!
- More than 75 species of mushrooms are said to glow in the dark!
- Whilst mushrooms can grow year-round, they are most plentiful in the autumn.
- Mushrooms have a wide range of health benefits, including helping with high cholesterol, relieving the threat of prostate and breast cancers, and even helping to promote greater weight loss.
- Fly Agaric mushrooms, which look like Super Mario Bros. mushrooms, contain a psychoactive chemical that can cause micropsia/macropsia, aka the illusion that objects around you are larger or smaller than they actually are.
They have been classified as their own kingdom of life called fungi for the past 50 years or so. The fungi kingdom also includes other lifeforms like yeasts and moulds. However, before then, mushrooms were regarded as a primitive form of plant.
Some people believe that dogs won’t eat toxic mushrooms because they can identify toxins by scent. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Many dogs will eat mushrooms that are bad for them without knowledge of the damage that they could do. So be sure to keep a lookout.
Some good rules apply for avoiding poisonous mushrooms if you are a novice; Avoid mushrooms with white gills, a skirt or ring on the stem, and a bulbous or sack-like base called a volva. You may be missing out on some good edible fungi, but it means you will be avoiding the deadly members of the Amanita family.
Take a spore print of the mushroom and check that the print is white. Cut the stem away from the mushroom cap using a pocket knife. Gently push down on the cap to press the gills onto a dark piece of paper. Wait overnight, and check that the spores on the paper are white.
Mushrooms are rich sources of potassium, a nutrient known for reducing the negative impact that sodium can have on your body. Potassium also lessens the tension in blood vessels, potentially helping to lower blood pressure.