Teach Your Shoppers About the Trend to Blend

August 08, 2017

Help shoppers learn more about mushrooms in your supermarket, and share this winning recipe "blend" from a Retail Dietitian.

Some people love them - others don't - many of us have tried a variety of mushrooms when eating out, and while supermarkets now stock up to 20 different varieties, it seems shoppers have been a little afraid to experiment. However, with recent successful campaigns to encourage mushroom blends used in dishes, especially burgers, consumers are opening up to more possibilities in how to incorporate these nutritious fungi into their meals. 

This year, the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance partnered with The Mushroom Council for a recipe contest to encourage and showcase creativity from RDs and how they promote mixing finely chopped mushrooms with meat. Check out the winning recipe, Chicken Parm Blended Burger, from Heather Steele, RD, LD, at Reasor's. But first, here are some things to know about mushrooms, including our top picks for varieties found in the supermarket. 

Some have unusual shapes, some are very expensive, and most of us don't know the flavor differences. Shiitakes, Porcinis or Maitakes have become the favorites of many chefs who use these varieties' nutty or earthy flavors to enhance meats, fish, pastas, and veggies.

Four things you need to know:

What is a mushroom? Mushrooms are fungi; they are set apart from plants and animals. Mushrooms contain no chlorophyll and most are considered saprophytes. That means that they obtain their nutrition from metabolizing non-living organic matter. Bottom line is - they break down and “eat” dead plants, similar to the way a compost pile does. The body of the mushroom stores nutrients and other essential compounds, and when enough material is stored and the conditions are right they start to fruit - produce mushrooms.

Mushrooms do not have a “skin”, so they lose water easily, which is why they grow well in humid climates. But that's not to say that mushrooms like water - in fact, mushrooms need to breathe just like we do. Put a mushroom in water and it will drown. On a similar note, mushrooms are the only “plant” that provides a natural source of vitamin D. When exposed to ultraviolet light, mushrooms convert ergosterol to vitamin D2; levels vary from 1-97 percent of the DV depending on how much light the mushroom was exposed to when it was growing!

Health benefits? There have been many scientific studies on mushrooms - particularly in the Far East: Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea; these countries have produced volumes of reports on the medicinal effects of mushrooms, and have been using them in traditional medicine: as antitumor, antifungal, and anti-arthritic medicinal foods for years.

Most studies on the health benefits of mushrooms have reported immune enhancement properties. Complex sugars and their derivatives are able to stimulate a higher level of cytokine production in humans, which help the immune system facilitate communication between cells.

How should you care for mushrooms? First off, don't peel them; the skin is flavorful. Always use fresh mushrooms within a couple of days; do not store them in non-porous bags (use paper bags), as that will hasten their deterioration. Clean mushrooms with a soft brush or slightly dampened cloth; remember too much water will destroy the mushroom. If you do wash mushrooms, rinse very briefly in cold water, shake gently to dry, and use immediately. Never wash before storing. Use mushroom stems and trimming for stocks, stews, soups and sauces. When baking, broiling or grilling mushrooms, brush with olive oil first to prevent wrinkling.

SupermarketGuru’s Stellar Picks

King Trumpet, also known as king oyster is the largest species of the oyster mushroom. It has a thick stem, a small tan cap and is know for its robust, earthy flavor and somewhat meaty texture. It contains high amounts of the antioxidant amino acid, L-ergothioneine, which is thought to help reduce the risk of chronic disease by providing protection against free radical damage. King trumpets also contain statins, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

Maitake or “hen of the woods” is a mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of oak trees. They are especially high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, tocopherols, phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and L-ergothioneine. Maitakes also contain compounds that have the ability to stimulate the immune system and possess antitumor activity. Additionally there is clinical evidence that maitake mushroom polysaccharides may lower blood glucose in those with type 2 diabetes.

Shitake mushrooms are one of the most common mushrooms we see on restaurant menus. Their caps are large and dark brown in color. Shitakes are thought to have anticancer effects in colon cancer cells, but large-scale studies have yet to prove this hypothesis.