You might have danced with button mushrooms and waltzed with portobellos in your kitchen. But trust us when we say, there's a whole kingdom of mushrooms out there waiting to be explored with unique flavors and health-boosting powers!
Mushrooms have long been a fascinating part of human history, revered for their unique taste, versatility in cooking, and numerous health benefits. And we love that they make great "meaty" substitutes for a plant-based diet!
Scroll down to explore the enchanting world of exotic mushrooms, each with its own distinct flavor, texture, and health benefits.
From the delicate Oyster and meaty Shiitake to the regal Lion's Mane and the potent Reishi, we'll dive into the captivating properties of these mushrooms and how they can be incorporated into your diet.
7 exotic mushrooms we love
There are roughly 2000 mushrooms in the wild that are edible, that's quite a lot to cover! These 7 exotic mushrooms are some of the more known and used ones in culinary dishes, herbal teas, and supplements.
The Oyster mushroom is a culinary delight known for its tender texture and mild flavor. It earned its name due to its resemblance to an oyster shell. Oyster mushrooms are commonly found in various colors, such as white, yellow, and pink. They are often used in stir-fries, soups, and pasta dishes. Oyster mushrooms are low in calories and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins (B-complex vitamins), and minerals (such as potassium, phosphorus, and selenium). They are also known for their immune-boosting properties.
Shiitake mushrooms are a staple in Asian cuisine, prized for their rich umami flavor and meaty texture. They have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for their potential health benefits. Shiitake mushrooms contain compounds like lentinan, which may be immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory. These mushrooms are a good source of B-vitamins, as well as minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese. Shiitake mushrooms can be sautéed, added to soups, stir-fries, and even used as a meat substitute in various dishes.
Lion's Mane Mushroom
With its unique appearance resembling a lion's mane, this mushroom stands out from the rest. Lion's Mane mushrooms have a subtle seafood-like flavor and a tender texture. Recent studies suggest they may have cognitive benefits, potentially aiding memory, focus, and nerve health. They contain compounds that support nerve growth and brain health. In culinary applications, Lion's Mane mushrooms can be sliced and cooked like scallops or shredded and used in vegetarian "pulled pork" dishes.
Reishi mushrooms are a woody and bitter-tasting variety known for their medicinal properties. Often referred to as the "Mushroom of Immortality" in traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi has been used for centuries to support overall health and vitality. These mushrooms contain triterpenoids and beta-glucans, believed to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Reishi mushrooms are not commonly eaten due to their tough texture, but they are often consumed as teas, tinctures, or supplements.
Porcini mushrooms, or Cep mushrooms, are highly prized in European cuisine for their intense nutty flavor and meaty texture. These mushrooms are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin D, which is relatively rare in plant-based foods. Porcini mushrooms are often used in risottos, pasta dishes, and soups, where their earthy flavor can shine.
The Maitake mushroom, also known as "Hen of the Woods," is a cluster of frilly, fan-like caps. It has a robust and earthy flavor, making it a popular addition to various dishes. Maitake mushrooms are believed to have immune-modulating properties, and they contain compounds that may support overall well-being. These mushrooms can be roasted, grilled, or added to stir-fries and soups.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail mushrooms are named for their striking resemblance to the tail feathers of a wild turkey. They have a tough and chewy texture, making them unsuitable for direct consumption, but they are commonly used to make medicinal teas and supplements. Turkey Tail mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides like beta-glucans, which can enhance the immune system and support gut health.
health benefits of mushrooms and mushroom-containing supplements
Rich in nutrients
Mushrooms contain plenty of vitamins (such as B vitamins and vitamin D), minerals (such as selenium, copper, and potassium), and antioxidants. Some mushrooms also contain bioactive compounds like polysaccharides, triterpenes, and sterols, which have shown potential to support various aspects of health, including immune function, cardiovascular health, and brain health.
Low in Calories and Fat
Mushrooms are generally low in calories in fat, making them an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a healthy weight or reduce their calorie intake.
Plant-based protein source
Mushrooms are a great protein alternative for those on a plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian diet, with an average value of 23.80 g per 100 g dry weight. Oyster mushrooms are the highest in protein on a per-weight basis. Note: Although mushrooms offer good quality, easily absorbed protein, they are insufficient to meet your daily protein requirements and contain less iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 than other protein sources.
Boost Immune Function
Mushrooms like Reishi, Maitake, and Turkey Tail contain compounds that can enhance the immune system and protect against infections.
Try the Now Mushroom Immune Renew to boost your immune function. A specialized blend of eight mushrooms specifically formulated to support the immune system with standardized astragalus extract and a specialized mushroom blend.
Or try MyPure MYcoMune 4X, an exquisite group of the world's most power-packed mushrooms that contain phytochemicals, immune enhancing, Beta-(1,3) (1,6)-D-glucans and a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals.
Support Cognitive Health
Lion's Mane mushrooms have been linked to potential cognitive benefits, aiding memory and focus.
Get Now's Lion's Mane in Capsules here, which have naturally occurring beta-glucans to improve your cognitive function.
Promote Heart Health
Mushrooms are low in sodium and high in potassium, which can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. They also contain compounds like lovastatin, which may help lower cholesterol levels and, in turn, improve heart health.
Try the 6 Mushroom Defense™ Herbal Tea for complete wellness support! A blend of Chaga, Reishi, Maitake, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, and Lion's Mane delivers powerful adaptogens and antioxidants. This daily tea helps cover all your needs with its rich nutrition, including immunity, mood, energy, digestion, gut, heart, and liver health.
Aid Digestive Health
Certain mushrooms, such as Maitake and Turkey Tail, contain dietary fiber that supports gut health.
Elevate your mornings and treat yourself with our Cocao Mushroom Granola. Our special blend of gourmet adaptogens, mushroom blend (Chaga, Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Turkey Tail, Lion's Mane, Wood Ear, Mesima, Oyster, Cordycepsand), and slow-baked granola provides a highly nutritious and tantalizing start to your day.
Rich in Antioxidants
Mushrooms contain various antioxidants, such as ergothioneine and selenium, which help protect the body's cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. These antioxidants contribute to overall health and may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Try the Now Rei-Shi Mushroom Blend. Reishi and shiitake are both well-known in Oriental herbalism and have been used to promote health and wellness for centuries.
6 ways to enjoy more exotic mushrooms
Oyster, Shiitake, and Maitake mushrooms are excellent when sautéed with garlic, herbs, and a splash of soy sauce. Serve them as a delectable side dish, or generously heap them atop a steaming bed of fluffy rice. Or how about using them as the main filling for tacos, like these vegan mushroom tacos.
Add a mix of mushrooms to your stir-fry to enhance its flavor and texture. Sauté them with vibrant vegetables, aromatic ginger, and a drizzle of sesame oil or soy sauce.
3. Soups, Stews, and Gravies
Porcini, Portobello, and Shiitake mushrooms work great to add depth to soups and stews and to make mouthwatering gravies like this dairy-free mushroom gravy recipe.
Slice Lion's Mane or Portobello mushrooms into medallions and grill them for a satisfying meaty alternative. Or keep them whole, add delicious stuffing of choice, and grill them for a few minutes.
5. Crispy Baked Bites
Replace fried chicken or chicken nuggets with healthier, crispy baked mushrooms! We made these crispy baked oyster mushrooms using our 'Not Chicken' Seasoning, and they did not disappoint!
6. Teas and Supplements
Various teas and supplements offer all the health benefits of exotic mushrooms, making adding their superpowers to your daily routine effortless. This is especially helpful if you struggle to get different kinds of mushrooms at your local grocery store.