The Good and the Bad on Mushrooms
With latest trends in healthy eating leaning towards growing your own produce, mushrooms are on the top of the list of food items to rather buy from a store. Besides being an expensive and technically challenging product to farm, there are also many species of mushrooms that are toxic, and identifying these is no simple task. So while it may be enchanting to discover a garden full of mushrooms that have sprung up overnight or a forest full of wild mushrooms, it is best to leave the harvesting to professionals. It is safest to remove any found in your garden if you have children and pets. When buying mushrooms, always buy from reputable sources and supermarkets; and never from street-side vendors selling unidentifiable mushrooms. In September 2012 a family in Kwazulu Natal lost 5 members, including a 17 month old baby, due to mushroom poisoning from eating non-identified mushrooms which were brought home and cooked as the family meal. Symptoms of poisoning depend on the mushroom species but can include abdominal pain and muscular spasms; vomiting anddiarrhea; fatigue; slow heartbeat; or hallucinations.
Contrary to the above, there are a number of species of mushrooms that contain potent health properties. According to fitday.com, white mushrooms are good for weight loss and the prevention of prostate cancer. The specific type of carbohydrate stimulates the metabolism and maintains blood sugar levels. Also high in selenium, they have been shown to have good effects on prostate cancer. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan a natural anti-tumor substance, while vitamin D fights infection. Maitake mushrooms are said to be powerful against breast cancer. Chanterelle mushrooms have been associated with anti-microbial, bacterial and fungal properties and are high in vitamin C, D and potassium. Other varieties also yield their own benefits.
Risks and benefits aside, mushrooms are tasty and many of us enjoy them as either a meal accompaniment or as a whole meal on its own. Whether fried, sauteed, crumbed, braaied, roasted or stewed, mushrooms find their way onto many a plate and into numerous sauces or salads. With white mushrooms containing 3g of protein and 3g carb per 100g, these are a fat-free and cholesterol-free versatile food with endless recipe possibilities. While the protein content does not rival that of meat, mushrooms contain significantly less calories. South Africa produces predominantly white button and brown mushrooms, though other varieties have increased in popularity.
For an alternative to traditional kebabs, try using a fresh sprig of Rosemary as a skewer and threading white button mushrooms onto it. Brush with olive oil and either roast or add it to the braai.