The magic of mushrooms

The interview about the unique and mysterious world of mushroom farming has got us thinking. Who knew there are still many undiscovered species out there? And it is fascinating and exciting to learn the award-winning Unearthed Co. Mushrooms is growing Australian native mushrooms – and is among the first in the world to do so. 

Whimsical and coral-like. Photo: Unearthed Co. Mushrooms

Mushroom consumption and growing has come a long way in Australia. In the 1970s we mostly ate them from a can but now Australians eat 95% of mushrooms fresh. 

Commercial mushroom growing in Australia began in 1933 in disused railway tunnels under Sydney. In the late 1930s the mushroom industry moved outdoors to the Hawkesbury district when growers created the first raised beds in open fields, covered by nothing more than straw and hessian bags. Unsurprisingly, weather extremes meant they were low yielding. 

Newly arrived migrants brought with them the skills and knowledge for the Australian mushroom industry to flourish and the growing techniques they used the 1940s and 50s were largely unchanged from the methods used in 19th Century Europe. It wasn’t until the 1960s that modern mushroom farming emerged on a worldwide basis. Now, there are almost 80 mushroom growers in Australia, with most close to our capital cities. 

Beyond the common white mushroom cups, there’s many different varieties now available in supermarkets. Including the large portobello, perfect for filling with fetta and herbs through to the interesting enoki and shimeji mushrooms which can be likened to coral. 

Keep reading to find more facts and hints about mushrooms:

Marvellous mushrooms. Photo: Unearthed Co. Mushrooms

How to store mushrooms

Keep your mushrooms in a brown paper bag on the bottom shelf of the fridge. They should last about a week. 

Preparing mushrooms for meals

Mushrooms are versatile and can be eaten fresh in salads, barbecued, sautéed and are perfect for throwing into a hearty casserole. When it comes to preparation, it doesn’t get much simpler! No need for peeling and you can use the entire mushroom. To clean just gently wipe them over. Don’t soak them in water or wash cut mushrooms as they will absorb the water – and they’re already comprise about 90% water. 

Umami, the fifth flavour profile

Mushrooms have a rich umami flavour, but what does that mean? We’ve all heard of the flavour profiles sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami is the fifth taste and can be described as “savoury”, “meaty”, “deep” or “brothy”. It is found naturally in miso, soy sauce, parmesan, seaweed and, of course, mushrooms. 

The darker the mushroom, the stronger the umami flavour will be, so think about this flavour profile when next eating swiss brown or portobello mushrooms. Umami lasts longer than the other taste profiles and is known to leave a mouthwatering sensation, so it will keep you coming back for more! 

Health benefits of mushrooms

The mushrooms certainly pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value – they support the immune system, contain antioxidants and three cup mushrooms can provide all your daily vitamin D requirements! They are also low-GI, gluten free, low fat and contain several B vitamins that even help fight fatigue. 

How to tell if a wild mushroom is safe to eat

While it might be tempting to eat a wild mushroom it’s tricky to identify what’s safe and what’s poisonous. Consuming wild mushrooms can result in severe illness and even death. Unless you are a mycologist – someone who is an expert in identifying fungi – do not pick or eat wild mushrooms, instead buy them from a supermarket or reputable source. 

If you want more mushroom facts, hacks and recipes, then follow @australianmushrooms and @australianmushroomgrowers or check out their websites.


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