Food of the week: Crimini Mushrooms


My first and most exciting memories about mushrooms are from back when I was about 8 years old. I used to spend summers in the countryside with my grandmother and my parents would come visit on weekends. When in season, my dad would wake me up early to go mushroom hunting. Russian forests are home for a huge variety of wild mushrooms and most of them are absolutely amazing. Rarely we would come back home with half empty baskets, way more often we would carry back a few full buckets of mushrooms. Then my grandmother would spend an entire morning cleaning them and only then they would be turned into a lunch. Chanterelles, porcini like and a few more local specialties were my favourites. Some are best in soups, some are best stir fried, but no matter which ones and what way they are prepared the flavour of wild mushrooms is incomparable to any of the cultivated type.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I moved to the US and realised that mushrooms and “crimini” are pretty much synonyms and fresh chanterelles, morels and  shiitake is as far as “wilderness” goes at the grocery stores..

Humans get used to pretty much any conditions and I had to accept and live with whatever Ohio nature has to offer. When I need to intensify mushroom flavour I throw in some soaked dried wild mushrooms and it sort of does the trick (not the same texture, of course).

Mushrooms are not every ones favourite. It seems like it’s a love it or hate it relationship in most cases. Mostly they are hated for a slimy texture, but those who don’t mind oysters are good to go. Things might change when the decision to change diet takes place. Mushrooms are rich in protein and can provide with unique immune system support which make them a staple in a vegetarian diet.

Fun facts about crimini mushrooms:

  • One key nutrient for healthy immune system function is vitamin D, and crimini mushrooms do provide measurable amounts of this vitamin. However the list of immune-impacting phytonutrients in crimini mushroom is both unusual and lengthy. It includes beta-D-glucans, fucogalactans, APO (2-amino-3H-phenoxazin-3-one), p-tolyl-hydrazine, and a wide range of substances involving unique combinations of protein-plus-carbohydrate components. The role of a healthy immune system in helping protect us against arthritis, development of cancer, and development of cardiovascular disease has been examined with a focus on dietary mushroom intake, and evidence suggests that crimini mushrooms can help lower our risk of these health problems by supporting balanced activities among the white blood cells of our immune system.
  • Risk of many common health problems—including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer—is increased by the presence of chronic unwanted inflammation. Intake of whole fresh mushrooms, mushroom extracts, and powdered/dried mushrooms has been shown to accomplish precisely this result—blocked production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
  • There are two outstanding types of antioxidant support provided by crimini mushrooms. The first type involves their nutrient composition, and the second type involves their impact on oxidative metabolism. In terms of nutrients, you don’t have to look far to find key players in antioxidant world: crimini mushrooms provide an excellent amount of selenium, and a very good amount of zinc and manganese. n addition to providing us with these key antioxidant nutrients, mushrooms also impact our oxidative metabolism. Intake of crimini mushrooms and crimini mushrooms extracts has been studied in relationship to the activity of several oxidative enzymes, including SOD (superoxide dismutase), CAT (catalase), and GPO (glutathione peroxidase).
  • Since the health of our circulatory system depends on great antioxidant protection and effective regulation of inflammation, it is not surprising to see crimini mushrooms providing impressive cardiovascular benefits. This mushroom is simply to rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients to go unheralded in this cardiovascular area. The cardiovascular benefits from crimini mushrooms also involve their B vitamins. In addition to being an excellent source of vitamins B2, B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid), crimini mushrooms are a very good source of vitamin B1, and good source of vitamin B6, folate, and choline.
  • The immune system’s ability to actively detect and deactivate cancer cells (or potentially cancerous cells) and the inflammatory system’s ability to help trigger apoptosis in cancer cells (or potentially cancerous cells) are abilities that can be enhanced by intake of crimini mushrooms.