Mushrooms are very healthy, because they are not only low in calories, but also contain lots of fibre and are an important source of non-animal Vitamin D.
They are vegetarians’ substitute for meat because they are an important source of protein. The vegetables contain more than twice the amount of protein than any other.
They are often used in soups, sauces, salads, fresh ready meals and chilled pizzas.
They are also used as an additive in beverages like tea. Cordyceps, reishi and chaga are the three main types of mushrooms used in teas.
Reishi can help regulate hormones, lower stress, and break down stress-related cortisol.
Chaga, on the other hand, has the highest source of antioxidants while cordyceps are good for oxygen intake, thus, a lot of athletes drink its tea.
There are various methods of preserving mushroom to extend the shelf-life beyond the five days it lasts after picking.
Preserved mushrooms can be kept for up to five years without going bad.
After mushrooms have been picked from the farm, they should be transported to the processing factories as quick as possible. They are then immediately placed in a vacuum where they suck up a lot of water.
Mushrooms contain quite a bit of air, thus, by placing them in a vacuum, it gets replaced with water making sure they won’t float to the surface in the blanching kettle.
Blanching mushrooms include dipping them in almost boiling water) and is the first step in prolonging their shelf-life. By heating them, the mushrooms are less susceptible to deterioration.
They are then sliced, cooled with ice water and dried. It takes just half an hour to process 10kg of fresh mushrooms into a bag. When cooled, they can be kept for six weeks.
However, as a final step, the mushrooms are pasteurised or sterilised so that they stay even longer. Pasteurisation means they are heated to 95 degrees Celsius for a while, extending the shelf-life to about six months as long as they are refrigerated.
In case of sterilisation, mushrooms are heated to 125 degrees Celsius. Cans of sterilised mushrooms can be kept for a maximum of five years.
Another preservation method is drying done using a food dehydrator. You can either slice them into half-inch pieces or depending on the shape, you can cut them right down the middle.
Arrange the mushrooms on the drying racks and assemble your dehydrator. As you arrange the pieces, don’t pack them so tightly that they’re sitting on top of each other.
Dry continuously on a lower setting, not higher than 150 degrees. An average of 135 degrees is a perfect temperature. Check on them every few hours and remove when they’re cracker dry.
High heat can destroy some of the beneficial compounds in some mushrooms, so for drying mushrooms use lower settings rather than just roasting them.
When they are cracker dry, they snap easily and break apart. If they still seem moist or bend rather than snap, you better keep drying.
BENEFITS OF MUSHROOMS
Mushrooms that still contain some moisture may rot or develop mold. After drying, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Don’t leave them out in the open, in direct sunlight, or anywhere wet.
Mushrooms contain many essential vitamins, such as B, C and D. Vitamin B is good for a healthy skin and helps to prevent heart disease.
Further, vitamins B2 and B3 help to maintain red blood cells and a healthy nerve function. Vitamin D, associated with strong teeth and bones, do much more for our bodies and strengthens the immune system.
So why should you consume mushrooms? They contain many essential minerals, such as iron, phosphorus, copper, potassium and selenium.
Potassium aids in the maintenance of body fluid to control blood pressure.
Phosphorus, in combination with calcium, forms the structure of our teeth and bones.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from damage which might lead to heart diseases and some cancers. Selenium is hardly ever found in vegetables.
Mushrooms are one of the richest, natural sources of selenium. One single portion of mushrooms can provide a quarter of the daily needs of selenium
The writer is based at the Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology, Egerton University.
Mushroom takes place of meat
Mushroom is gradually replacing meat in most menus in the world. They are low in calories and contain high amounts of fibre.
Mushroom is not only a food but a sensitive organism, each kind with its personality, its specific preferences and needs.
Different mushrooms do well on different substrates. For instance, Oyster mushrooms flourish in straw; Shiitakes do well on hardwood dust; button mushrooms grow best in composted manure.
The different growing media reflect the different nutritional needs of each species.
However, each of these species can be grown readily in sawdust or straw.
And to tap into the rising market of those who are increasingly seeking to grow their own mushrooms at home, there are mushroom boxes that have mycelium in them already for sale.
Anyone can buy, take home and cut a part of box and the mycelium starts to grow out to become mushrooms and in two weeks, it is ready for harvesting.
The box, however, must be placed under appropriate weather conditions depending on the species of mushroom.