Fall is the perfect season for sipping on hot apple cider, baking pumpkin desserts, and decorating with mums. Aside from these favorites, fall is also the perfect season for harvesting mushrooms. Although they are available year-round, mushrooms are in peak season during the fall and winter months. In fact, September is National Mushroom Month!
Mushrooms are an inexpensive, versatile vegetable. Whether prepared as the main dish, served as an appetizer or incorporated into a side dish, mushrooms are a delicious complement to any cuisine, adding flavor and volume as well as boosting vegetable intake. They can also serve as a meat substitute for vegans/vegetarians. The earthy, umami-rich taste of mushrooms allows them to blend well with a variety of flavors. Umami is one of the basic tastes, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. This taste, created by the amino acid glutamate, is described as pleasant and savory and is found in foods such as meat, dairy, fish and vegetables.
Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., a family-owned and -operated agribusiness, is the largest single producer of mushrooms in the United States. One of its farms, located in Princeton, Illinois, consist of seven indoor acres and produces approximately 450,000-500,000 pounds of mushrooms per year. While the company's white and whole portabella mushrooms are among top favorites, its baby portabella mushrooms have a heartier mushroom flavor and are rapidly growing in popularity.
Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a research project which involves simulating natural sun exposure with controlled UV light to create vitamin D-rich mushrooms. Like humans, mushrooms convert sunlight into a usable form of vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two essential minerals for maintaining bone health and strength. Just one half-cup serving of its mushrooms provides 100% of the recommended daily vitamin D intake. This is especially important in living in Minnesota where we are further away from the sun. We only get strong enough sunlight for vitamin D absorption a few months each year.
Baby portabella mushrooms are, without a doubt, a nutritional powerhouse. Aside from being low in calories, fat and sodium, they provide antioxidants which may protect our body's cells from damage caused by free radicals. They are an excellent source of riboflavin, a B vitamin that is important for energy, growth and red blood cell production. Baby portabellas are also a good source of:
Selenium: A mineral known for its antioxidant properties; may play a role in preventing cancer of the colon, prostate, lung, bladder, skin, esophagus and stomach
Copper: A mineral necessary for producing and storing iron
Potassium: A mineral which aids in lowering blood pressure
Although baby portabellas are a mighty mushroom, they do require careful storage and handling. Here are a few helpful tips:
Refrigerate in the original packaging immediately after purchasing.
Don't store near pungent foods as baby portabellas may absorb their odors.
Fresh mushrooms can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Store in a brown paper bag once opened.
Sauted mushrooms, as opposed to fresh mushrooms, can be frozen.
Wipe gently with a damp cloth before use. If preparing mushrooms in bulk, rinse quickly under cool water (don't soak!) and drain.
Grilled Mushroom Quesadillas
Yield: 6 portions
Serving Size: 1 quesadilla (1 Flatout wrap folded over cup mushrooms, 1/3 avocado and 2 ounces cheese)
All you need:
2 pounds fresh Monterey Mushrooms baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
6 Flatout wraps
2 cups (around 8 ounces) shredded cheese, such as reduced-fat Cheddar and Monterey Jack, plus extra for garnish
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Salsa and diced tomatoes, for garnish
All you do:
1. Heat olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side.
3. Add salt, flip mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more, until other side is same color.
While mushrooms cook, assemble quesadillas; distribute half the cheeses and all avocado slices on left half of six tortillas. When mushrooms are done, distribute mushrooms and cilantro leaves, if desired, among tortillas and top with remaining cheese. Fold tortilla in half and grill or warm in skillet until cheese begins to melt, then flip to cook other side. Transfer to cutting board, cut into wedges and serve with salsa, tomatoes and additional cheese.
Nutrition facts per serving: 400 calories, 22 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 900 mg sodium, 17 g protein, 33 g total carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber
Source: Adapted from Monterey Mushrooms
The information is not intended as medical advice. Consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.