Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Mushroom Helps Out

The Mushroom Helps Out

It seems that more and more women today are being affected by Breast Cancer. I am sure that almost every one of us personally knows someone who has either had breast cancer or has been affected by it. The amount of research that goes into finding a cure for this life altering disease is amazing, that is why it is so great that a simple mushroom can be used to help prevent it.

Researchers at the City of Hope now report that their studies have found anti-aromatase properties in mushrooms. The extract, conjugated linoleic acid, is a substance that inhibits the activity of aromatase; an enzyme that is used in the production of estrogen, which is believed to have cancer promoting effects in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. It has been known that conjugated linoleic acid worked as an anti-aromatase agent, but until now it was only known to be in animal-based foods.

The initial study began with seven vegetable extracts including green onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, broccoli, spinach and mushrooms. They were all tested for the anti-aromatase activity. The most effect of the seven was the white mushroom. The second phase of this study then tested only mushrooms. This was to learn whether other varieties contained the same anti-aromatase activity. Portabella, shiitake, crimini, oyster, enoki, chanterelles, and small and large white mushrooms were all tested. The large white mushrooms emerged as the most effective and potent inhibitor of aromatase activity, even when cooked.

Laboratory mouse studies then confirmed that the compounds in mushrooms stopped the growth of breast cancer cells. They found that the mice that were fed the extract had a 58% reduction in breast cancer tumor growth.

Although more studies are needed to substantiate this evidence, the future of breast cancer reduction using mushrooms does look promising.

Most people never would have thought that something that was considered to have no nutritional value at all, could come forward to lead the way in the prevention of breast cancer.

I for one am just thrilled with these finding, and I give great support to Dr. Chen, his team and all the work that they are doing at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, CA. Dr. Chen’s research on the protective effects of mushrooms on breast cancer has recently been accepted for publication in Cancer Research, the publication came out this past November.

We all look forward to seeing the future work and wonderful findings of Dr. Chen and his team.

To make a donation to the Canadian Breast Cancer Society Click Here.

To make a donation to the American Breast Cancer Foundation Click Here.

- Chen et al, Breast cancer prevention with phytochemicals in mushrooms. Proc. Am Assoc. of Cancer Research, 46, Abs. 5186
- Grube, B.J., et al. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr. 131:3288-3293, 2001.
Mushrooms Canada
Mushroom Council

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Few Quick Recipes

Want some quick mushroom meals and dishes is a snap? Here are some of my tried, tested and true mushroom recipes that are fast, simple and sure to please.

Mushroom Skewers
No time to fix veggies? Skewer mushrooms and cherry tomatoes; brush with oil and grill, turning often. Tasty and pretty. Great with burgers or chicken

Picnic Pasta Salad
Toss sliced mushrooms, cooked rotini pasta, chopped red pepper, fresh oregano, and parsley in a fast dressing of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Chill over night.

Mushroom Potato Salad
Cook unpeeled red new potatoes; halve and toss with crisp bacon or sliced cook sausage. Add sliced mushrooms. While still warm, gently toss with sour cream to coat. Serve warm.

Roasted Mushroom and Onion Salad
Drizzle quartered mushrooms and sliced red onions with oil. Spread on baking sheets in single layer; roast 15-20 minutes in 400°F (200°C) oven, turning once until brown. Serve on a bed of fresh greens; drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Mushroom BBQ Bites
Lightly grease a large square of aluminum foil. Place 1 lb whole mushrooms in center of foil. Dot with herbed butter (combine equal amounts butter with chopped fresh herbs like oregano or parsley). Seal. Grill over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes. Turn package with tongs once or twice during cooking.

Spicy Sesame Mushroom Beef Stir-Fry
Toss lean beef strips with sesame seeds to coat. Stir-fry in oil, along with chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, sliced peppers and broccoli florets. Season with soy sauce, minced garlic, ginger and dried crushed chili peppers.

Mushroom Cabbage Rolls
Stuff blanched red and green cabbage leaves with a blend of sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onion, cooked rice, basil and oregano. Place in oven proof casserole dish; cover with tomato sauce and cook 1 hour in moderate oven or 20 minutes in high microwave.

Mushroom Guacamole
Finely chop mushrooms and ix in bowl with ripe, mashed avocado pulp, lemon juice, garlic and hot sauce to taste. Serve with warm tortilla chips.

Mushroom Escargot
Place canned escargot (snails) into centers of large mushroom caps. Top each with a spoonful of garlic butter. Place on greased baking sheet and bake in moderate oven for 10-12 minutes. Serve with toothpicks or on toast rounds.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Where to Start? How About How Mushrooms Grow?

Where to Start? How About How Mushrooms Grow?

The first thing that most people say when the think about mushrooms is, “they’re grown in manure and kept in the dark.”

Contrary to popular belief mushrooms are not grown in manure. This is one thing that I get asked about most often. Mushrooms are in fact grown in a pasteurized substrate, which yes does contain manure, but once the whole process is finished it is not even close. Allow me to go on. This pasteurized mushroom substrate is made up of several different organic materials such as wheat, straw, hay, stable bedding, poultry litter, gypsum, corncobs, and high protein supplements such as soybean meal and feather meal. Each item does its job to create carbon and nitrogen as well as manage the pH levels of the substrate. These items mixed together create a nutritionally balanced growth medium for mushrooms.

Pasteurization of this substrate is next. This is the most important step in the making of the substrate as it eliminates any pests or micro-organisms that may be in the mixture. During pasteurization the substrate reaches a temperature of 160F/71C, all bacteria is killed. The substrate is now ready for the spawn or fungal seed to be added.

Mushrooms are “planted” using fungal mycelia instead of seeds. This “seed” or spawn is created in sterile, biosecure laboratories. Spawn making starts with a mixture of sterilized grain such as wheat, rye, or millet. Particles of mycelia are added to the sterilized grain and then incubated to promote the growth of spawn. Mushroom farmers then purchase this spawn mixture from the specialized commercial laboratories.

Mushroom spawn is then mixed thoroughly with the pasteurized substrate back at the farm. Temperature and humidity is then managed to promote the mycelial growth within the substrate. The mycelia (a mushrooms equivalent to a root) grows in all directions throughout the substrate from the spawn grain. After this spawning takes place the substrate and spawn mixture is transferred to several hundred beds or trays. A layer of casing is then spread over the mushroom bed. This casing is usually about 2 inches thick, and is made up of mostly peat moss. This casing layer acts as a water reservoir and provides a place where the mushroom mycelia form thick white rhizomorphs, which is what happens when mycelia grow together (it looks like white string). Because mushrooms need moisture, water is applied right after the casing. The beds are then watered periodically to the maximum holding capacity of the casing layer. In a few weeks the mushrooms will be ready for their first harvest.

Mushroom growers can often get more than one harvest from their single crop. Some can do two or three harvests with a 7 to 10 day break in between each harvest. The mushroom yield will decrease with each harvest of that single crop. Agaricus mushrooms are harvested for 16 to 35 days. During this harvest time bed temperatures, humidity and air ventilation are all controlled and monitored to ensure a healthy crop.

All mushrooms are hand harvested, which is very labour intensive work, believe me. After picking the mushroom from the bed the harvester then cuts off the base of the mushroom or the stump. The mushrooms are then immediately put into cold storage, this stops any mushroom deterioration or browning. This is also why you should keep your mushrooms in the fridge when you take them home. The mushrooms are then sent to packaging where they are either washed, sliced or cello wrapped in trays. Each package is weighed and then sent under a metal detector to make sure that no foreign objects were dropped into the container. They are now ready to be shipped.

The mushrooms that you see in your local grocery store were most likely picked 12-24 hours ago, so when you get them, you are getting the freshest mushrooms possible.

So there it is, the answer to every ones burning question, how mushrooms really grow. I hope this helps out all the people who have ever wondered.

Oh, and maybe I should mention that this is how whites, browns and portabella mushrooms are grown. The shiitake, enoki and oyster are really different, but we will save that story for another day.
By for now.