Shiitake, portobello, crimini and other edible mushroom varieties are a gourmet’s dream, but too few people turn to these low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods as reliable sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s also a mistake to stick to just one mushroom and not branch out. Each variety contributes different balance of nutrients to your diet.
Whether you know them as crimini or brown button mushrooms, these familiar fungi are found in the most supermarkets. They’re high in the minerals rarely found in edible plants, including phosphorus, selenium and copper, as well as several B vitamins.
Button mushrooms can be enjoyed fresh; sliced thinly and add to salads or crudites platters. Alternatively, saute chopped criminis in olive oil and add to sauces and stews, perhaps thickened with flour and spooned over steak or chicken.
Selenium and B5 are major nutrients in shiitake mushrooms. They’re also a good source of fiber and protein. The stems are prized for their high amount of beta-glucans, the polymers known for lowering blood cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms are also the richest source of vitamin D of all the plant foods.
Slice and saute shiitake mushrooms for stir-fries, or add them to delicate Asian soups. Sauteed shiitakes can also top pasta, or serve as a side dish.
Some “button” mushrooms you’ll find at the supermarket are actually young portobello, or at least in the same family. But these larger fungi boast a charm — and a flavor profile — all their own. Vegetarians prize portobello’s’ meaty texture as an alternative to steaks, as well as for their size, which makes stuffing them a breeze.
The portobello is higher in protein and fiber than other edible mushrooms. Among its other noteworthy nutrients is potassium; one portobello beats out even bananas in this crucial mineral. It also adds calcium and iron to your diet.
Most cooks prepare portobellos by twisting off the stem and scraping out the black gills in the cap (save the stems for vegetable broth). Portobellos can be sliced and sauteed, but they really shine when left whole, and grilled like steaks. Alternatively, stuff them with a creamy or cheesy, veggie mixture and bake them in a medium oven for 30 to 40 minutes.