Nutrition

Soil magicians

Mushrooms can save the world—and they taste great too!

If you aren’t already a huge mushroom fan, please allow me to bring you into the fungal fandom fold. Pause, pick up your phone and search for 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World,  (or click the link!) a 2008 TED lecture with Paul Stamets. If you’re already on board, keep that knowing nod going.

Stamets shows that mushrooms can clean soil of toxic substances, re-green Earth, fight viruses, repel invasive insects and be a source of fuel. Mushrooms are also being tapped for their myriad medicinal virtues. Containing around 30% protein, they’re an excellent meat replacement for vegetarians. Beyond these superpowers, mushrooms are downright tasty.

They appear out of nowhere, as if by magic, says Gavin Hardie, co-owner of Bay of Fungi, an off-grid mushroom farm outside of Sackville, New Brunswick that distributes gourmet, culinary mushrooms in the Maritimes.

They’ve also recently created kits for growing your own gourmet mushrooms at home. “Some of the varieties that we grow, they don’t necessarily ship that well or keep that well,” says Hardie. “So a lot of people have never actually tasted a fresh oyster mushroom that hasn’t been handled and mishandled and all beat up.”

Growing mushrooms at home gives you access to a whole new variety of flavours and textures. And it’s incredibly easy. The kit doesn’t take up much space—it sits on any kitchen counter. All you need to do is cut a hole, mist daily and watch the magic unfold.

The actual mushroom is the fruit, “similar to an apple tree,” says Hardie. But mycelium—the underlying structure supporting mushrooms—is living all around us and can run underground for hundreds of kilometres, only fruiting where the conditions above ground are perfect. “It’s kind of a mystery,” Hardie says.

You have your choice of Pink Oyster, Blue Oyster and Lion’s Mane—all beautiful and all delicious. Blue oyster is a bit firmer than the pink but both are high in protein and B vitamins. Lion’s mane is unlike any other mushroom you’re likely to find in a grocery store. It grows in clusters of icicle-like teeth and is said to be excellent for the brain and nervous system. It’s known as a nootropic—a substance that enhances cognition.

“Low and slow is better for cooking them,” Hardie says, because of their high water content. “Their texture is very similar to scallop meat, so a little butter and garlic at the end gives you a seafood experience.”

Whether you want to save the world, enjoy fresh ingredients, or just watch the magic of a mushroom fruit, the Bay of Fungi kits are for you. And when you’re done, throw the kit out back under some hardwood logs—you may find yourself with yet more fungal friends in a few years time.

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