Button mushrooms have grown in the wild since prehistoric times. Early hunter gatherers consumed mushrooms and in ancient times they were thought to have special powers. The Egyptians believed mushrooms granted immortality, so only Pharoahs were allowed to eat them. In Rome, they were called “food of the gods,” and in the folklore of many cultures, mushrooms were attributed to providing superhuman strength. While mushrooms are often thought of as a vegetable, they are actually fungus, a special type of living organism that has no roots, leaves, flowers, or seeds.
Though this week’s box includes button mushrooms, we’re going to talk about cremini, and portabello mushrooms too. Do you know why? You guessed it – they’re all part of the same family, Agaricus bisporus. The difference between these mushrooms is simply age: white button mushrooms are the babies, cremini are the teenagers, and portabellos are the great grandparents. White button mushrooms are the palest and softest in texture, while portabellos are the meatiest. Creminis fall somewhere in between; their slightly more mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture, and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms.
This family of mushrooms is one of the most commonly and widely consumed mushrooms in the world. It is native to grasslands in Europe and North America, though this family has a complicated taxonomic history. Between 1871 and 1946, it went through a number of name changes, landing on its current name because it best describes its two-spore formation.
Mushroom cultivation began in seventeenth century Europe; especially well known is mushroom cultivation that began in France. In Paris, mushrooms were grown in the catacombs that lay beneath the city, hence why button mushrooms are often referred to as champignon de Paris (Paris mushroom).
Mushrooms are unlike vegetables and plants in that they do not require soil or light in order to grow. All it needs is decaying organic matter such as wood, leaves, or manure. This unique nature of the mushroom growing context is one of the reasons it is best to choose organically grown mushrooms: growth media used in commercial production can be inconsistent in terms of quality and could be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, and other substances.
Filled with an array of vitamins and minerals mushrooms have powerful antioxidant properties. These antioxidants protect our cells, strengthen our immune system, aid with digestion and energy production and help the nervous system function properly.
One serving of mushrooms contains only 20 calories (one serving is about five mushrooms).
Mushrooms are the only natural fresh vegetable or fruit that contains Vitamin D.