Friday, January 18, 2008

Growing in the Dank Darkness-Healthy Eating

When it comes to surprises mushrooms are one of the big ones. There are classes at various community colleges and County Extension offices to help you be an alive and well mushroom gatherer…I’ve wondered why people would do that and not leave it to the experts. Well, where do those experts come from, people who learn how to go out and gather their own mushrooms. Duh! I still think I would feel safer buying one of those kits that you can use to grow mushrooms in your basement or something.

So your question is probably why bother? You could buy them from the supermarket of course, but as gardeners we know that satisfaction of doing it ourselves, being in control of the soil, the vitamins we feed them and the pesticide/insecticide deterrents we use if any.

Why would we care if mushrooms are part of our culinary choices? How about major health benefits.

Mushrooms, make that edible – mushrooms--the safe ones, are a right up there with other super-foods in the forefront right now such as green tea and broccoli. Did you know that the first antibiotics were extracted from fungi. Let's examine their benefits.

Mushrooms are 80-90% water, and therefore are low in calories high in fiber. We all know the health benefits of enough moisture and fiber in our diets. Now add on the fact that they are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in sodium (especially good for those on a hypertensive diet). If that isn’t enough for you here are some other reasons to get more mushrooms into your cooking:

• Phytonutrients found in mushrooms have been at the center of anti-cancer research for decades. In many countries, medicinal mushrooms are used as an adjunct to other cancer treatments.
• Recent studies have shown that white mushrooms (the little button mushrooms usually sold in the supermarket)can reduce the risk of breast and prostrate cancer
• Mushrooms are considered probiotic, meaning that they help the body to strengthen itself and ward off illness. The nutrient riboflavin is part of mushrooms' probiotic ability. Mushrooms have a high percentage of that nutrient.
• A great source of potassium, a mineral which helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke is another benefit of the lowly mushroom. A medium portabella mushroom has more potassium than a glass of orange juice or a banana.
What do you say? Shall we grow ourselves some delicious mushrooms. If you fry them in butter with some onions just until the onions are transparent they taste like steak. Imagine steak with a bunch of healthy side benefits. Have you ever had stuffed mushrooms? You are in for a culinary treat. This woman's garden will include mushrooms and since it's winter out, 8 inches of snow overnight proves that, I can feed my gardening urge by growing some mushrooms. A win win situation wouldn't you say?

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