What Kind of Food Am I?

What Kind of Food Am I?

See if you can answer this riddle. I am edible but I am not a plant. I am not a fruit or a vegetable. I am not a legume, nut or seed but I may have a nutty flavor. I have the texture of meat, but there is no meat in me. I am a food so supreme that I have a kingdom all my own. What kind of food am I?

If you haven’t guessed already, mushrooms are our magical ingredients of the month. At Salty’s we are featuring a dish that spotlights a mycological marvel called the hedgehog. This unique mushroom gets its name because of the spiky “hedgehog” hairdo you find under its mushroom cap. The hydnum repandum is locally harvested at its prime during our Northwest winter and early spring and deliciously brought to you by Salty’s chefs.

Although technically not a plant, mushrooms feed off of plants and are often mistaken as vegetables. Mushrooms are from the kingdom of fungi, and as a fungus, they have completely different physical and nutritional properties from fruits or vegetables. In fact because of their distinct characteristics, they have distinguished themselves as a powerful superfood.

“Mushrooms are rich in a range of essential nutrients, while providing bioactive compounds like antioxidants and potential anticancer compounds. In fact, the latest research indicates that it is a smart decision to eat mushrooms daily as they have a positive influence on blood lipids, blood glucose, immunity and weight control, and offer many essential nutrients and antioxidants.” (Read more at powerofmushrooms.com.au/health-nutrition/health-nutrition/nature-superfood/#sthash.ln7bHsal.dpuf.)

“Mushrooms have many marvelous attributes when it comes to nutrition.”

Mushrooms have many marvelous attributes when it comes to nutrition. They contain no fat and are low in sodium. They make food taste saltier because they contain a substantial amount of potassium, and this helps balance out body fluids with better controlling of blood pressure. They are high in soluble fiber so they are very filling, which helps control appetite, and as a bonus that fiber also absorbs cholesterol. Recent studies have even shown promise in cancer prevention. Mushrooms are extremely low in calories so you can fill up all you want. They can be used very satisfyingly as a substitute for meat because they have a similar texture when cooked, but even more important, they have the “umami” savory taste of meat. That flavor comes from the compound glutamate, which is found in both mushrooms and meat, giving it that rich deliciousness. But don’t let the word “glut”amate confuse you, mushrooms are also gluten free.

With their splendid distinctions of flavor, texture and superfood nutrition, it’s no wonder mushrooms have been given a kingdom all their own.

For step-by-step instructions on how to prepare mushrooms the right way, see Chef Jeremy’s Kitchen Talk blog on “How to Cook Mushrooms.”