Boasting more than 100,000 species, mushrooms with their high protein provide some of the best alternatives to meat, and with such variety you’re sure to find a few delicious ones fit for your taste
Mushrooms, which have tens of thousands of varieties around the world, are food with a very high nutritional value. They are the best known source of vegetable protein and a good alternative to meat. Mushrooms, which are especially rich in protein and iron, contain vitamins A, B, D, P and K, as well as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and copper minerals.
The first known instances of people eating mushrooms date back to 200 or 300 B.C. Mushrooms were first cultivated in France in the 16th century. Edible mushrooms, which grow spontaneously in nature and depend on seasons, are an important nutrient source for people in rural areas.
Most of the mushrooms consumed in many countries of the world as well as in Türkiye are collected from nature. However, the fact that some natural mushrooms are poisonous, and cannot be easily distinguished from the edible varieties, leads issues may even cause death.
Mushrooms are healthy food options because they are a good source of protein, do not contain cholesterol, have fibrillary structures, are rich in vitamins and minerals, and some of them contain beta-glucans, one of the bioactive molecules, according to “Mushrooms: Cultivation, Nutritional Value, Medicinal Effect, and Environmental Impact” by Philip G. Miles and Shu-ting Chang. With the increase in the demand for healthy and safe foods in the world, mushroom cultivation has turned into an important industry branch and natural mushroom picking has become a fun and money-making activity. Especially in rural areas, low-cost production and collection from nature can be a source of income for some families.
Mushrooms boast more than 100,000 species and their sizes vary. Since fungi are primarily spore-reproducing (cryptogamous) organisms. The part of them that appears above the ground is actually the fruit of the fungi designed to spread the spores.
Mushrooms are also used for a variety of purposes. Reishi mushrooms are the most well-known mushroom used for medical treatment. It is a type of mushroom that has been used in traditional Far Eastern medicine for thousands of years, and its essence is consumed as a liquid. The main features of Reishi, a natural fungus that grows on the roots and trunks of trees, are to clean the blood, strengthen the immune system and reduce nervous tension.
In addition to their benefits for human health, mushrooms also give life to nature. Fungi, which serve as the digestive system of forests, are of great ecological importance as decomposers that provide the nutrient cycle.
So, after a brief introduction let us take a look at mushrooms that grow and are consumed in the world, particularly in Türkiye.
Black truffles are used in many dishes, including sauces or seasoning, as well as in specialty butter. They also have a very special place in the cosmetic industry. The value of truffles, which are one of the biological riches of Türkiye and also known as “black diamonds,” is increasing day by day. It is one of the most expensive edible mushrooms in the world. Truffles grow naturally in the Mediterranean climatic zone, including Spain, France, Italy and Türkiye.
The cultivated mushroom, or agaricus bisporus, is the most farmed and consumed mushroom species in the world. They are the most common fungi that you are likely to come across and are thus frequently included in recipes. This species loves moist and warm environments and can grow in forests, fields and grassy areas both in bunches and alone. It is possible to find this mushroom species, which can be seen in different regions of Türkiye, in markets and bazaars. Being completely white in color, it can be easily distinguished from other mushroom species.
Shiitake mushroom, which is included in the most popular recipes of Far Eastern countries and sold at very high prices, is also called the Black Forest mushroom. It likes humid and warm climates and is found at the bottom of deciduous trees such as mulberrys, oaks and chestnuts. They are similar in appearance to cultivated mushrooms but have a dark brown hue. This species is considered a medicinal mushroom in some forms of traditional medicine. It is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, but is now cultivated and consumed around the globe. It grows in the Black Sea, Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Türkiye. It is the second most cultivated mushroom species in the world.
One of the most delicious types of mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, also known as hiratake or pearl oyster mushrooms, are indispensable for delicious recipes. This type of mushroom, which vegans and vegetarians consider as one of the foods closest to meat, grows in moist places. It has a soft, white fibrous appearance under its dark, broad and flat head. It is especially common to find in the spring and autumn seasons.
Morchella esculenta is known by many different names, the most common of which are the common morel, yellow morel, morel mushroom, and sponge morel. It grows in almost all coastal areas of Türkiye. It is also known as a medicinal mushroom due to its healing effects. It has a wrinkled appearance, unlike the usual mushroom species, the head and stem are not clearly separated. It is one of the most readily recognized of all the edible mushrooms and is highly sought after. Experts recommend consuming morel mushrooms to balance blood sugar. It is also an important resource for the pharmaceutical industry as the extract of the morel mushroom is used in the manufacture of various medications. It should not be eaten raw as it can cause various allergic reactions.
Known in Türkiye as “kanlıca mushroom,” the lactarius deterrimus is widely referred to as the false saffron milkcap or orange milkcap. It is a very common, delicious and economically profitable mushroom in the western Black Sea Region of Türkiye, especially in Taşköprü and Tosya districts of northern Kastamonu and Bolu provinces. It grows after autumn rains, and its color becomes darker in places with pine trees. It is generally consumed by frying or sauteeing in oil.
Clitocybe nuda, commonly known as the wood blewit, can be found in Türkiye with the names “blue cincile” in Bolu or “purple mushroom” around Karaman. It gives off a very nice smell where it grows. It should never be eaten raw as it can cause mild poisoning or stomach problems. It is delicious when sauteed in butter, in pasta sauce or when barbecued. Again in the Bolu region, it is often used while preparing pastries and soup.