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Behold, mushrooms, health beat,

Most mushrooms are good sources of selenium, B vitamins, potassium and even small amounts of vitamin D. (for spectrum health beat)

mushroom.

For some people, they’re a great ingredient if you want to add a little umami—that savory-ness—to a meal.

To others, they are just a strange fungus.

It’s true, mushroom is a fungus. Or rather, something like the fruit of a fungus, which is called a mycelium.

There are thousands of varieties of mushrooms, in size, shape, taste and texture. Some are edible, some are not.

Edible mushrooms have been used in both food and medicine. In general, most mushrooms are good sources of selenium, B vitamins, potassium and even small amounts of vitamin D when exposed to UV light.

They also contain prebiotic beta-glucans, which feed the gut flora and strengthen the immune system while fighting cancers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Edible mushrooms are available locally as a wild substitute, although common mushrooms are found year-round at the grocery store.

Locally, you can find morels in spring, chanterelles in mid-summer, and porcini in fall. Price will vary based on availability.

Mushrooms can also be dried and stored for long periods for rehydration before cooking.

Before eating them, wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any dirt—and avoid washing them, as it can leave them rubbery. Also, be sure to cook your mushrooms, as many types contain a compound called agaritine, which can be potentially carcinogenic when eaten raw.

When adding mushrooms to cooking, take the time to explore the different varieties and pay attention to the different flavors and textures.

Even some mushroom-haters can sometimes find substitutes they love.

Here are some mushroom highlights:

White Buttons, Ceremony and Portobello

What do they have in common? They are all the same mushroom.

White button mushrooms—90% of the mushrooms in the US—are children of cremini and portobello mushrooms. These are the most common and least expensive options at the grocery store. They impart a mild flavor.

Cremini are button mushrooms — the grown variety, also known as baby bellas — with a brown color.

Portobellos are the largest version of the button mushroom.

They are all similar in nutritional profile and rank significantly higher in antioxidant rankings. With age, they become earthy in taste.

Use them as a topping for stir-fries, soups, salads or an entrée.

Many people like to use portobello as a vegetarian burger alternative. It’s great to match the texture and taste, but it doesn’t quite match, as it has a low protein content.

oysters

While these look a little different than your average mushroom, they are a popular choice for pasta, tarts or other stir-fries. These mushrooms have a more delicate flavor and velvety texture.

morels

This oblong-shaped mushroom has a spongy, honeycomb-like texture and is more commonly found seasonally at farmers’ markets. They are often overpriced, but worth a try when you can find some.

chanterelles

These golden mushrooms have a tangy and fruity flavor. They last a while in the fridge and should be prepared without oil because of their high moisture content.

Despite their color and taste, chanterelles have the lowest antioxidant content among mushrooms. Still, they contain a handful of vitamins and minerals.

best quality

This mushroom with a reddish-brown cap is top in antioxidants. These are similar in taste to portobello, with a hearty, nutty flavor. They are common in Italian cuisine such as risotto.

shiitake

High in fiber, these mushrooms have a fleshy texture and a rich, woody flavor. Remove stalks before cooking and add to stir-fries, pastas, soups and entrees.

Lion’s mane

This mushroom has a hairy appearance and has the texture of a crab or lobster. Once cooked, it can be chewy, tender and juicy.

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