Meet the mushrooms! The Mushroom Profiles is a series of posts where we talk about the different mushroom varieties that we grow in our farm. In prior posts, we talked about the Lion's Mane (hericium erinaceus), the Reishi (ganoderma multipileum), and the Chaga (inonotus obliquus), which are considered medicinal (or adaptogenic) because of their health benefits. In this post, we will focus on the Blue Oyster (pleurotus ostreatus) and the Chestnut (pholiota adiposa) mushrooms. These are considered gourmet because they're used mostly for culinary purposes. They're both delicious & nutritious, but as we will see, they also contain some special compounds that could yield significant health benefits.
The oyster mushroom is the common name for Pleurotus Ostreatus. an edible mushroom which is quite popular for foraging or cultivating. There are several other notable fungi in the genus Pleurotus, such as the pink oyster (pleurotus djamor) and the golden oyster (pleurotus citrinopileatus), but we will cover those in a later edition of the blog. Today, it's all about the blue oysters, and we will discuss some of their most fascinating features, as well as some recommendations for cooking them.
The blue oyster mushroom has a wide distribution and can be found in various climates around the world. It is a saprotroph, meaning that it feeds on decaying organic matter (especially trees), and this benefits the forest by returning vital elements and minerals back into the soil in a form that is useful to other plants and organisms. Oyster mushrooms are also carnivores, preying on nematodes by using a toxin that paralyzes them for ingestion. It gets its name from the resemblance of the mushroom caps to the shell of an oyster. Although they do look distinctly blue when they are very small (during their pinning phase), fully mature specimens are usually white or grey in color. This mushroom has several toxic lookalikes, so always be very careful when foraging in the wild.
Blue Oysters are super resilient and the mycelium is quite aggressive. Mycelium from oyster mushrooms has been known to consume some trash and even cigarette butts! The colonization period (the time it takes for the mycelium to fully spread throughout the substrate) for this mushroom variety is one of the quickest, and they don't require much care during cultivation, which has surely contributed to their growing popularity. The mycelium has also been used in some surprisingly innovative ways; it can be molded into furniture or even construction materials, making it a more sustainable alternative for many existing materials.
Blue Oysters have high levels of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other important nutrients. When cooking them, it's pretty hard to mess it up. Here at One Up, we're of the opinion that of all the gourmet mushroom varieties we grow, the oysters are the easiest to work with. The shape and size of the caps is usually quite convenient for cooking many different dishes, so we recommend sauteeing them in a pan with oil or butter and seasoning them to taste. From there, you can make a pasta, a stir fry, or a nice side dish to elevate any meal. If you want to make the mushrooms the star of your dish, you can also find many recipes and creative cooking ideas online.
Pholiota Adiposa, or as they're commonly known, Chestnuts, are cute yellow-brown mushrooms that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. The caps are scaly and grow on cylindrical stems in bunches. They can grow parasitically on live trees or as a saprotroph on dead wood, particularly from hardwood trees such as oaks. The name adiposa comes from the slimy appearance of the caps. In addition to being foraged in the wild, chestnut mushrooms are also cultivated commercially. They can be grown on a substrate of wood chips, straw, or a combination of both.
Like most gourmet mushrooms, they are a good source of essential nutrients, including vitamins (such as B vitamins) and minerals (like potassium and selenium). They also contain polysaccharides, which are complex sugars that are known to have antioxidant effects. Various specific polysaccharides isolated from pholiota adiposa have been shown to have anti-tumor effects in mice. It is believed that these anti-tumor abilities are linked with the antioxidant effects. Yet another compound produced by this mushroom is methyl gallate, which is also of interest for its medicinal properties. Methyl gallate is a phenolic compound with strong antioxidant properties and in some studies it has been shown to inhibit HIV. Although it is also found in certain plants, the chestnut mushroom is the first fungus from which methyl gallate has been extracted.
Now, on to the tasty part of the story! As their common name suggests, Chestnuts have a nutty earthy flavor which intensifies when cooked. The long stems are also edible and are a great source of fiber. When cooked properly they deliver a nice crisp bite. Chestnuts can be sauteed, grilled, roasted, or used in various dishes such as stir fries, soups, and pasta. They pair well with a variety of herbs and spices. One of our favorite things to do with chestnut mushrooms is put them on a pizza or in a pasta sauce. Another great option is using them for a breakfast omelette (with all the works, of course).
As you can see, chestnut mushrooms can be used in a variety of cuisines and dishes, adding depth of flavor and texture. They are valued for their ability to absorb and complement the flavors of the other ingredients, rather than taking up all the spotlight.
At this point you might be wondering: if these mushrooms are so healthy, why don't you use them to make a concentrated extract? And that is a great point. As we've seen, blue oyster and chestnut mushrooms are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, and they are quite nutritious even for superfood standards. But other mushrooms, such as the lion's mane, reishi, and chaga; have long been considered medicinal because they also contain special compounds and properties that carry additional health benefits. Oyster mushrooms are super high in beta-glucans and the chestnuts are particularly interesting because they contain megaglutenoids, but they are not as high as the others. For this reason, they are mostly consumed as food and not as dietary supplements.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about these marvelous mushrooms, and that you're feeling encouraged and inspired to grab some fresh mushrooms and try out some cooking ideas. If and when you do, send us a picture!
Meet the mushrooms! The Mushroom Profiles will be a series of posts where we will highlight different mushroom varieties that we cultivate in our farm. In this initial feature, we will be presenting two of our favorite mushrooms: the Lion's Mane and Reishi mushrooms. So, without further ado...
Lion's Mane is the common name for Hericium erinaceus, one of several white and fleshy mushrooms in the genus Hericium. It can be found in the forests of Europe, Asia, and North America, growing on hardwood trees in the late summer or fall.
The Lion's Mane mushroom can stand on its own as a gourmet mushroom, but it's probably best known and most used as a brain supplement. We'll explain why in a bit, but it's important to keep in mind that in many parts of the world this isn't exactly news. For centuries in some Asian cultures, it has been used as both a food and a medicine, and its benefits extend to several different organ systems like the nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.
Lion's mane looks a bit like a cauliflower, and it feels like a plump sponge. Some people describe the flavor as something similar to crab or lobster once cooked, which is true enough, but we also feel that the lion's mane taste is in many ways like a blank canvas since it absorbs and retains lots of flavor from whatever other ingredients it's cooked with. The meaty texture is what really makes it truly special, and because of this it's an excellent substitute for meat in vegan and vegetarian dishes.
There are many ways to prepare Lion's Mane mushrooms in the kitchen, but the easiest and most common method is to cut them up or pull them apart and sauté them in a pan with oil or butter, and season them to taste. If you're feeling more adventurous, there are tons of cool recipe ideas online. Some really creative things we've seen from our customers include vegetarian "crab" cakes (replacing the crab with lion's mane), vegan carnitas (replacing the pork with lion's mane), vegan menudo (replacing the beef belly pancita), and our own personal favorite: Lion's Mane burgers and steaks.
When consumed regularly, it reportedly supports cognitive functions like concentration, memory, and clarity. It's also good for gut health and for chronic inflammation, and it helps to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. So, you may be asking, what's actually going on behind the scenes?
Like most other plants and fungi, Lion's Mane mushrooms produce a set of organic compounds called terpenes. Terpenes and terpenoids are the largest group of secondary metabolites (meaning they are not directly related to growth or reproduction) found in natural organisms. These naturally occurring organic compounds are the reason why certain plants and mushrooms smell and taste the way they do, and so they comprise an area of extensive research.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms also contain a high concentration of a beneficial compound known as Beta glucans. These are a group of organic polysaccharide sugars or fibers which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Beta glucan has shown significant antimicrobial (stops the growth of microorganisms), anticancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-hypercholesterolemic (controls cholesterol levels) properties in countless clinical trials.
Back to the terpenes: the terpenoid groups that are unique to Lion’s Mane are called hericenones and erinacenes. These have been extensively studied and are reported to boost nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), among other processes involved in regulating the growth and health of the nervous system. In other words, they help stimulate the growth of neurons in the brain and in some cases could also repair damaged nerves. Why is this important?
The nervous system includes not only the central nervous system (the brain & spinal cord) but also the peripheral nervous system (the sensory organs and the entire network of nerves that extends throughout your body). The nervous system is in charge of sensory processing & perception, communication between the brain & the body, and the cognition within our minds. Galen, one of the most respected and accomplished medical researchers from antiquity and the personal physician to several Roman emperors (including Marcus Aurelius), once said "Look to the nervous system as the key to maximum health". Once we come to understand the role and the purpose of the nervous system, this no longer feels like an overstatement.
Reishi, or lingzhi, is the common name for mushrooms in the Ganoderma genus. These are a type of polypore fungus colloquially called shelf mushrooms because they grow like shelves on dying trees. Reishi can be found in China, Europe, and also in North America, although scientists have speculated whether these were introduced by humans and acclimatized over time. The taxonomy for the genus Ganoderma has remained a bit confusing, and similar species such as ganoderma lingzhi, ganoderma lucidum, ganoderma sessile, ganoderma tsugae, ganoderma multipileum, and a number of other ganoderma species can sometimes be conflated with one another.
Reishi mushrooms are polypores, meaning they have pores or tubes on the underside instead of gills. They can grow out in conks from a short stipe, or like bonsai tree-looking antlers, and are usually a dark brown to red color with a bit of orange, yellow, and white near the new growth around the edges. Reishi has a very distinct aroma; it's rich and delicious, tart but earthy, like a sweet piney forest. As we learned before, this is probably due to the aromatic terpenoid compounds that it is packed with, more on this later.
The Reishi mushroom probably has an even longer history as a medicinal mushroom than Lion's Mane. In traditional asian medicine, it was used to treat many different ailments, and it earned the nickname the mushroom of immortality. It can be enjoyed simply in a tea, or it can be made more concentrated and bioavailable in dual extract form. Due to its tough leathery texture and its flagrantly bitter taste, it's not a top choice mushroom for cooking, and historically it has mostly been used for its medicinal benefits.
Very recently however, novel applications for this mushroom (and mycelium) are being developed, particularly in fashion, art, beauty products, textiles, and packaging materials. Reishi mycelium is quite resilient and flexible, so it can be molded and combined with other materials to make things like leather, furniture, or bricks. Pretty soon you might start finding some Reishi-based products in some surprising places!
On the medicinal side, Reishi is known for modulating and balancing the cells of our immune system. It actively fights viruses, bacteria, and even tumors. It also contains anti-aging properties, such as keeping our skin healthy, fighting inflammation, detoxifying heavy metals, and blocking the damage from free radical toxins. On top of that, it helps manage stress levels, supports calmer moods, and promotes an overall sense of well-being - so, one can understand why this mushroom has developed a reputation for being a panacea. Again you might ask, what's going on here? How can a mushroom do all that?
The research suggests that some of the terpenoids in the Reishi, especially the terpenoids known as Ganoderic acids, are what make it such an effective treatment for so many different things. These are thought to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-tumor properties, and an interesting thing about them is that they are not water-soluble. They must be extracted from the Reishi mushroom through an extra step, which is why an alcohol dual extraction method is so important in order to extract, concentrate, and make them more bioavailable.
We hope you've enjoyed reading about these two marvelous mushrooms. They hold a special place in our hearts because they were the first two mushroom species that we cultivated at our farm as One Up Mushroom Products, and the first two tinctures in our product line. We've been using them regularly for years and are thoroughly convinced of their healing and therapeutic potential. For more information on the scientific literature behind these mushrooms and their benefits, please visit our Resources page, where we link to a lot of reviews and clinical studies on this subject matter.