Mushrooms: The Amazing Fungus Among Us

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

Two portobellos -- topped with sautéed spinach, marinara sauce, and crunchy goat cheese -- are ample as a delicious entrée. Add salad and you have a colorful, healthy, and very filling meal

By Jenny Hammer

Technically, a mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Who would think that eating fungus -- something that grows on decaying wood and other organic matter -- could be so delicious and nutritious? Mushrooms are amazing, and they’re available in such variety that you’ll never get tired of eating them.

Most of us know of brown button, white button, shiitake, and portobello/portabella mushrooms. Maybe you’ve used enoki mushrooms in soups. There are also oyster, reishi, maitake, chanterelles, crimini (baby portobellos), porcini, king trumpets, and many others, with prices for them varying all the way to black truffles (at $16.00+ per ounce!).

There are also dried mushrooms like tree ears, wood ears, and black fungus (usually sold in Asian markets), whose blood-thinning, anti-clot properties have been compared to those of the drug, warfarin (without the side effects).

Did you know that mushrooms are a non-animal/non-dairy source of vitamin D? That the compound, lentinan -- found in shiitake mushrooms -- may have a cholesterol-lowering action, as well as anti-tumor, antiviral, and immune-stimulating effects? That the largest living organism on the planet is not an elephant or a blue whale but a fungus growing in Oregon? This fungus is four square miles in area, but, apparently, the honey mushrooms it produces are not very tasty.