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By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Throughout history, people around the world have foraged wild mushrooms for food.
1. Hen-of-the-Woods<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTgwMTY1NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjY0MDQzOH0.puO-PaS0TLtdHlYgcmWaFM5iQsA2HbjNjFM1vY1Gqok/img.png?width=980" id="759ee" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ecdc1b82f25370bf46ef467529f396be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><em>Grifola frondosa</em>, commonly known as hen-of-the-woods or maitake, is an edible mushroom that's a favorite of mushroom hunters.</p><p><strong>Growth</strong></p><p>Hen-of-the-woods is a polypore — a type of fungus that has small pores covering its underside.</p><p>They grow on the bases of trees in shelf-like clusters, favoring hardwoods like oak. These clusters resemble the tail feathers of a sitting hen — hence the name "hen-of-the-woods." Several hen-of-the-woods may grow on a single tree (<a href="http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/nov2006.html" target="_blank">1</a>).</p><p>This mushroom is native to China but also grows in Japan and North America, especially the northeastern United States. It's a perennial mushroom and often grows in the same spot for many years.</p><p><strong>Identification</strong></p><p>Hen-of-the-woods are grayish-brown in color, while the underside of the caps and branch-like stalk are white, though coloring can vary.</p><p>These mushrooms are most commonly found in the fall, but they can be found less frequently in the summer months as well (<a href="https://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/poroid%20fungi/species%20pages/Grifola%20frondosa.htm" target="_blank">2</a>).</p><p>Hen-of-the-woods can grow quite large. Some mushroom hunters have scored massive mushrooms weighing up to 50 pounds (about 23 kg), but most weigh 3–15 pounds (1.5–7 kg) (<a href="http://mushroom-collecting.com/mushroommaitake.html" target="_blank">3</a>).</p><p>A helpful clue when identifying hen-of-the-woods is that it does not have gills, and the underside of its cap has tiny pores, which are smallest at the edges.</p><p>Don't eat older specimens that are orange or reddish in color, as they may be contaminated with bacteria or mold.</p><p>Hen-of-the-woods is often favored by beginner mushroom hunters. It's distinctive and does not have many dangerous look-alikes, making it a safe option for novices.</p><p><strong>Nutrition</strong></p><p>Hen-of-the-woods are quite nutritious and particularly high in the B vitamins folate, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/niacin-benefits" target="_blank">niacin</a> (B3), and riboflavin (B2), all of which are involved in energy metabolism and cellular growth (<a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169403/nutrients" target="_blank">4</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/" target="_blank">5Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>This mushroom also contains powerful health-promoting compounds, including complex <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/good-carbs-bad-carbs" target="_blank">carbohydrates</a> called glucans.</p><p>Glucans isolated from hen-of-the-woods have been shown to have immune-boosting properties in animal studies (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202470/" target="_blank">6Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>What's more, research shows that these mushrooms may have anticancer, cholesterol-reducing, and anti-inflammatory properties (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24292357" target="_blank">7Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5055164/" target="_blank">8Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1160565/" target="_blank">9Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Hen-of-the-woods have a savory, rich flavor and are delicious when added to stir-fries, sautées, grain dishes, and soups.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Popular among novice mushroom hunters, hen-of-the-woods are commonly found growing at the base of an oak tree. They are grayish-brown in color and resemble the ruffled tail feathers of a sitting hen.</p>
2. Oyster Mushroom<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTgwMTY3My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDczNzM5NH0.pDulKzLEwKrUCV5XGE6cRIRj7rVKwx-Z52eSlf5AZ9g/img.png?width=980" id="02c43" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33e29f9c30a2a1a46ffd9b206cfdb877" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>The oyster mushroom (<em>Pleurotus ostreatus</em>) is a delicious edible mushroom that resembles an oyster in shape and is commonly sought after by mushroom hunters.</p><p><strong>Growth</strong></p><p>Oyster mushrooms grow in forests around the world, including throughout North America.</p><p>These mushrooms grow on dead or dying hardwood trees like beech and oak trees. They can sometimes be found growing on fallen branches and dead stumps (<a href="https://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/gilledfungi/speciespages/Pleurotusostreatus.htm" target="_blank">10</a>).</p><p>Oyster mushrooms decompose decaying wood and release nutrients into the soil, recycling nutrients to be used by other plants and organisms in forest ecosystems (<a href="https://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/gilledfungi/speciespages/Pleurotusostreatus.htm" target="_blank">10</a>).</p><p>They can be found during the spring and fall months in the Northern United States and year-round in warmer climates.</p><p><strong>Identification</strong></p><p>Oyster mushrooms grow in clusters resembling shelves on dead or dying hardwood trees.</p><p>Depending on the time of year, the tops of the oyster-shaped caps of these mushrooms can range from white to brownish-gray and are typically 2–8 inches (5–20 cm) wide (<a href="https://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/gilledfungi/speciespages/Pleurotusostreatus.htm" target="_blank">10</a>).</p><p>The undersides of the caps are covered with tightly spaced gills that run down the stubby, sometimes nonexistent, stem and are white or tan in color.</p><p>Oyster mushrooms can grow in large numbers, and many different clusters can be found on the same tree.</p><p><strong>Nutrition</strong></p><p>Oyster mushrooms have thick, white, mild-tasting flesh that contains a variety of nutrients. They are particularly high in B vitamins, including niacin (B3) and riboflavin (B2), as well as the minerals <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-potassium-do" target="_blank">potassium</a>, copper, iron, and zinc (<a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168580/nutrients" target="_blank">11</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608979/" target="_blank">12Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>They also contain powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds, including triterpenoids, glycoproteins, and lectins, which may offer some protection against chronic disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608979/" target="_blank">12Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>For example, test-tube research shows that oyster mushrooms have properties that help fight prostate, colon, and breast cancer cells. However, human studies are lacking (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822205" target="_blank">13Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2796484/" target="_blank">14Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Oyster mushrooms are excellent sautéed with onions and garlic as a side dish. You can also add them to soups, pastas, and meat dishes.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Oyster mushrooms can be found on dead or dying hardwood trees around the world. They have a mild taste and contain an abundance of nutrients.</p>
3. Sulphur Shelf Mushroom<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTgwMTY5Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTYyNzA1M30.tE-naAi5hjLZeIJaG0PrsbNuHDSmJqadop2HpAjJclo/img.png?width=980" id="e448d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2f733f54645c863210a90925f7f97cc2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>The sulphur shelf (<em>Laetiporus sulphureus</em>) mushroom is also known as chicken-of-the-woods or chicken mushroom. It's a bright orange or yellow mushroom with a unique, meaty flavor.</p><p><strong>Growth</strong></p><p>Sulphur shelf mushrooms grow on hardwood trees in North America and Europe. They are widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States (<a href="http://www.midwestmycology.org/Mushrooms/Species%20listed/Laetiporous%20species.html" target="_blank">15</a>).</p><p>These mushrooms can either act as parasites on living or dying trees, or derive nutrients from dead trees, such as rotting tree stumps.</p><p>Sulphur shelf mushrooms grow on trees in shelf-like clusters. They are commonly found on large oak trees and typically harvested during the summer and fall months.</p><p>It should be noted that sulphur shelf look-alike <em>Laetiporus </em>species exist. They grow on conifer trees should be avoided, as they can cause severe allergic reactions in some people (<a href="https://blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2006/10/31/eating-the-chicken-of-the-woods/" target="_blank">16</a>).</p><p><strong>Identification</strong></p><p>Sulphur shelf mushrooms are typically orange or yellow in color and grow in overlapping shelf-like clusters on hardwoods, such as oak, willow, and chestnut.</p><p>The caps of the mushroom are fan-like or semicircular in shape and typically 2–12 inches (5–30 cm) across and up to 8 inches (20 cm) deep. The sulphur shelf does not have gills, and the underside of the caps is covered with tiny pores (<a href="http://www.midwestmycology.org/Mushrooms/Species%20listed/Laetiporous%20species.html" target="_blank">15</a>).</p><p>This mushroom has a smooth, suede-like texture and yellow-orange color, which fades to a dull white when the mushroom is past maturity.</p><p>Many sulphur shelf mushrooms may grow on a single tree, with individual mushrooms growing heavier than 50 pounds (23 kg) (<a href="http://www.midwestmycology.org/Mushrooms/Species%20listed/Laetiporous%20species.html" target="_blank">15</a>).</p><p><strong>Nutrition</strong></p><p>Like most mushrooms, sulphur shelf mushrooms are low in calories and offer a good amount of nutrients, including <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-is-fiber-good-for-you" target="_blank">fiber</a>, vitamin C, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273483883_Chemical_composition_of_the_mushroom_Laetiporus_sulphureus_Bull_Murill" target="_blank">17</a>).</p><p>Sulphur shelf mushrooms also contain plant compounds, including polysaccharides, eburicoic acid, and cinnamic acid. They have been shown to have antifungal, tumor-inhibiting, and antioxidant properties in test-tube and animal studies (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23324060" target="_blank">18Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23811530" target="_blank">19Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24810655" target="_blank">20Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26559696" target="_blank">21Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Sulphur shelf mushrooms should be eaten cooked — not raw. You can bring out their meaty texture and hearty flavor by sautéing them with butter, adding them to vegetable dishes, or mixing them into omelets.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The brightly colored sulphur shelf mushroom grows on hardwood trees like oaks and has a meaty texture and pleasing flavor when cooked. Don't confuse it with a look-alike species that grows on conifers.</p>
Poisonous Mushrooms to Avoid<p>Though many wild mushrooms can be enjoyed safely, others pose a threat to your health.</p><p>Never consume the following mushrooms:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><span></span><strong>1. Death cap (<em>Amanita phalloides</em>). </strong>Death caps are among the most poisonous of all mushrooms and responsible for the majority of mushroom-related deaths worldwide. They grow in many countries around the world (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26375431" target="_blank">22Trusted Source</a>).</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong><em>2. Conocybe filaris</em>. </strong>This mushroom grows in Europe, Asia, and North America and contains the same toxins as the death cap. It has a smooth, cone-like cap that is brownish in color. They are highly toxic and can be fatal if ingested (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431052/" target="_blank">23Trusted Source</a>).</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>3. Autumn skullcap (<em>Galerina marginata</em>).</strong> Also known as the "deadly Galerina," autumn skullcaps are among the most poisonous of mushrooms. They have small, brown caps and grow on rotting wood (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29325729" target="_blank">24Trusted Source</a>).</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>4. Death angel (<em>Amanita ocreata</em>). </strong>Related to the death cap, the death angel grows along the West Coast of the United States. This mushroom is mostly white and can cause severe illness and death if eaten (<a href="http://www.amanitaceae.org/?Amanita+ocreata" target="_blank">25</a>).</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>5. False morels (<em>Gyromitra esculenta</em> and <em>Gyromitra infula</em>).</strong> These resemble edible true morels, making them especially dangerous. Unlike true morels, they are not completely hollow when cut (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470580/" target="_blank">26Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>In addition to the mushrooms listed above, many more types of poisonous mushrooms exist.</p><p>If you are ever unsure whether a wild mushroom is edible, do not eat it. Some mushrooms can cause severe sickness and even death.</p><p>A popular saying among mushroom hunters is, "There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters. There are no old, bold mushroom hunters!"</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>There are many types of poisonous wild mushrooms that should be avoided. Never eat a mushroom that you aren't completely sure is edible.</p>
Edible Mushroom Tips and Precautions<p>For your safety, it's critical that you only hunt mushrooms if you are experienced in identifying edible varieties.</p><p>If you're interested in mushroom hunting, sign up for a class taught by a mushroom expert to learn how to properly identify safe varieties. Classes are offered through colleges, universities, and mycology clubs, such as the North American Mycological Association.</p><p>It should be noted that it's a bad idea to consume wild edible mushrooms that grow in urban settings, along busy highways, or in areas where pesticide exposure is likely. Fungi absorb pollutants like car exhaust and chemicals from the environment (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981958/" target="_blank">27Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>When foraging for mushrooms, always bring along a mushroom hunting guide that includes edible mushrooms that grow in your area. It will help you properly identify safe varieties.</p><p>Always avoid picking edible mushrooms that are past their prime. Signs that a mushroom should not be picked include decaying flesh, insect infestation, or a rancid smell.</p><p>When you're mushroom hunting, bring along either a basket, mesh bag, paper bag, or small backpack to store your haul, along with a small knife to harvest mushrooms.</p><p><strong>Cleaning and Storage</strong></p><p>Advice regarding whether to clean wild mushrooms by running them under cool water and removing excess dirt with a soft brush varies.</p><p>Some experts insist that washing mushrooms prior to storage leads to quicker spoilage, while some foraging enthusiasts recommend cleaning mushrooms before refrigerating them.</p><p>Regardless of whether you clean your mushrooms before storing them, keep them in a container with good airflow, such as a paper bag. Do not store mushrooms in plastic bags or tightly sealed containers.</p><p>Fresh, wild mushrooms should last a few days in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen or dried, which can significantly increase their shelf life.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Only hunt mushrooms if you are properly trained in identifying edible varieties. Avoid mushrooms that grow in polluted environments or are past their prime. Fresh, wild mushrooms can be refrigerated, frozen, or dried.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and sulphur shelf mushrooms are safe, delicious, and nutritious wild varieties prized by mushroom hunters.</p><p>While these and many other mushrooms are safe to consume, eating varieties like the death cap, false morels, and <em>Conocybe filaris </em>can cause serious adverse health effects and even death.</p><p>Foraging for wild mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding hobby. However, novice mushroom hunters should pair up with experts who are experienced in mushroom identification so they can learn how to identify and handle mushrooms properly.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz
Oil spills don't stand a chance against the cleansing power of mycelium.
The latest renewable energy breakthrough took place over a lunch.
Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow at Stevens Institute of Technology, told BBC News that he and some colleagues were discussing the problem of cyanobacteria. These are organisms that can convert sunlight into electric current. The problem? They don't live long enough on artificial lab equipment for researchers to be able to take much advantage of that fact.
By Dan Nosowitz
Various parts of the cannabis plant have already received full FDA approval; a drug consisting of cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has already been approved to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. Researchers have been pushing for years for relaxed legal status to study the possible medicinal benefits of hallucinogenic drugs, and now the FDA has given psilocybin—magic mushrooms—a conditional form of research approval, according to Compass Pathways, the company granted that approval.
By Robert Beelman
Mushrooms are often considered only for their culinary use because they are packed with flavor-enhancers and have gourmet appeal. That is probably why they are the second most popular pizza topping, next to pepperoni.
By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi
Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.
Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.
By Laura Sorkin
Shiitake mushrooms require faith in the unseen. The fungi flourish under the cover of bark for nine to twelve months preceding the first harvest, during which eternity you can do little more than cross your fingers. Once established, though, the crop will produce fruit for approximately seven years. Plus, these umami bombs fetch as much as $20 per pound at farmers markets. Up for the challenge? You'll want to get started now, harvesting the logs that will serve as your growing medium before trees bud out and release the nutrients stored in their sapwood.
Stinkhorns, Truffles, Smuts: The Amazing Diversity—and Possible Decline—of Mushrooms and Other Fungi
By Alexander Weir
"Whatever dressing one gives to mushrooms ... they are not really good but to be sent back to the dungheap where they are born."
French philosopher Denis Diderot thus dismissed mushrooms in 1751 in his " Encyclopedie." Today his words would be dismissed in France, where cooks tuck mushrooms into crepes, puff pastry and boeuf Bourguignon (beef Burgundy), to name just a few dishes.
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.
They are prized for their rich, savory taste and diverse health benefits.
"Dr. Hyman, you often talk about superfoods and their benefits," writes this week's house call. "Can you share some of your favorites?"
I realize "superfood" carries a certain hype, but some foods do earn that status. Food is medicine. And some foods are more powerful medicines than others! Food is the most powerful tool to create optimal health. Food is the first and most powerful drug in my arsenal to treat patients.
Here, I share five superfoods I frequently enjoy that you should also incorporate into your eating plan.
My three favorite seeds are chia, hemp and flaxseeds. You can add all three super seeds to smoothies, puddings or on top of coconut yogurt with berries. Let's look at their benefits.
- Chia seeds provide an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that have numerous benefits, including glowing skin and mental clarity. Just one ounce of chia seeds packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Its insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic that feeds friendly gut bacteria and ferments into short-chain fatty acids to support gut health. Chia seeds also contain more protein than most plant foods. And they contain more calcium than milk.
- Flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3 fats, dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Flaxseeds have powerful, anti-cancer, hormone-balancing phytonutrients called lignans. Freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled into a smoothie is an excellent way to ease constipation.
2. MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs are a special type of fatty acid derived from coconut oil. You can get them in coconut oil or as a stand-alone oil. I've written about how studies show MCT oil can help with weight loss, cognitive ability and much more. This super fuel becomes an instant-energy source because MCTs get rapidly burned and metabolized very efficiently, absorbing directly into the gut and then liver, so MCTs don't get stored as fat. You can add MCT oil to smoothies, coffee or veggies. MCTs also provide powerful antioxidant support to strengthen the immune system. Animal studies show MCTs also benefit liver and gut function.
Fiber is vital for so many reasons, including feeding friendly gut bacteria. Studies show fiber can prevent obesity, reduce risk for chronic diseases and decrease aging. That's because fiber slows the rate food enters your bloodstream and increases the speed of food exiting through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also helps balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, aids in quick release of toxins from your gutand curbs your appetite. Glucomannan is a soluble, fermentable and highly viscous dietary fiber from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods like konjac jelly, tofu and noodles. You can find glucomannan as a supplement called PGX. It mixes easily into water for an easy, effective fiber source.
While visiting China, I discovered folks there knew more about food's medicinal properties than I did even after many years of research. Medicinal foods are a part of their everyday diet, and mushrooms play a huge role within Chinese medicine. Reishi, shiitake and cordyceps contain powerful healing properties that boost your immune system and support healthy hormone production. Mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-inflammatory to support healthy liver function, optimized cholesterol levels and anti-cancer benefits. I use them often: I make a reishi tea, cook with shiitake mushrooms and make mushroom soup.
5. Plant Foods
The vast, colorful array of vegetables represents more than 25,000 beneficial chemicals. Research shows the synergistic balance of these chemicals provides numerous health benefits. I recommend adiverse diet with numerous colorful whole foods. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate well more than 800 varieties of plant foods. Today, we don't consume anywhere near this amount. Make that extra effort to include as many varieties of these colorful superfoods as you can. Eat from the rainbow: Every fruit and vegetable color represents a different family of healing compounds. Red foods (like tomatoes) contain the carotenoid lycopene, which helps eliminate free radicals that damage our genes. Green foods contain the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanate, as well as indoles that inhibit carcinogens to protect against cancer. Simply put: The more color you incorporate, the more health benefits you'll receive.
The tremendous power at the end of our forks becomes far more powerful than anything we find in a pill bottle. Functional Medicine ultimately rests on one central principle: Taking out the bad and putting in the good.