April 12, 2018

What are ‘functional mushrooms’ and how can they be used?

Mushrooms have long been a staple of cuisines wherever edible varieties of this fungus grow. Modern cultivation methods have made the most common types of mushrooms, like portobellos, shiitakes and many others, popular across the globe. Mushrooms aren’t just a food source, however. Some strains have beneficial properties that can positively impact the health of those who eat them. These are commonly called functional or medicinal mushrooms.

As you look to begin your education at one of the best culinary schools in Texas, you might wonder about exactly what makes a mushroom functional. Keep the following information in mind to help you incorporate functional mushrooms into your cooking and appeal to customers interested in this burgeoning trend.

Cutting board with mushrooms and chef's knife.Functional mushrooms are a significant current food trend.

What makes a mushroom functional?

In a practical sense, all mushrooms serve a function, whether as food or part of the ecosystem. However, the phrase functional mushroom specifically refers to varieties that have a health benefit beyond providing nutrition. Common advantages cited by proponents of the functional mushroom trend include anti-inflammatory properties – helpful for people with a variety of medical conditions that include inflammation as a symptom – and the presence of substances like antioxidants, which can help boost blood flow and provide other benefits.

Certain varieties may also help eaters better cope with stress, Cooking Light pointed out. And all of them are nutritious, high protein, high fiber, vitamin-rich foods. Although not all mushrooms offer all of the pluses commonly tied to functional mushrooms, every type brings some of the advantages to the table.

Certain varieties are seen as especially powerful in terms of the benefits they offer. Whole Foods, which placed functional mushrooms on its list of top food trends for 2018, specifically highlighted chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane star and reishi mushrooms as leaders in the functional mushroom movement. These mushrooms are sold fresh in many other grocery stores and supermarkets. Additionally, they’re used in a variety of prepared items, from bottled drinks to tea bags and even personal care and beauty items.

How can you use functional mushrooms as a chef?

Functional mushrooms offer some specific benefits, but they aren’t particularly hard to include in recipes or incorporate into a variety of other preparations, like house teas and infused beverages. As long as you recognize the differing and sometimes very unique flavor profile of each mushroom and use them accordingly, it will be difficult to make any major mistakes.

It’s also important to remember that all mushrooms are, to one extent or another, functional mushrooms. Although certain varieties are currently popular – and may well offer stronger benefits than the most common types – all mushrooms have some health benefits in terms of being healthy, nourishing and nutrient-rich foods.

Consider a few recipes we’ve previously shared that star mushrooms, including shiitake soup, portobello omelets and roasted button mushrooms. Adapting these to include varieties that are currently en vogue as part of the functional mushroom movement is a simple affair for chefs, and can increase their appeal to people who are invested in this trend.

Another aspect to consider is foraging for local mushrooms and incorporating them in your dishes. Although you may or may not find the most popular functional mushrooms around your restaurant, many areas have edible mushrooms that can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.

Functional mushrooms are certainly a trend, but a positive one that incorporates an especially healthy food into many dishes. Tap into your accumulated knowledge, personal tastes and recipes we’ve shared to make your own delicious meals featuring them.