Oyster Mushroom and Shiitake Mushroom - Nature's caretakers

shiitake mushrooms

What if you could fight cancer, reduce pollution, be innately aphrodisiac and musically gifted all while smelling surprisingly good? You can’t. But these forest dwelling mushrooms can. Usually found in the spring and fall on the hardwood logs of living or decomposing deciduous trees, Pleurotus ostreatus, Pleurotus djamor and Lentinula edodes mushrooms are a truly gifted bunch. 

Feeling jealous yet? The good news, however, is that you can find all three of these endowed shrooms in your Equal Food basket for you to take home and savor while reaping their natural superpowers.

Grey oyster mushrooms, pink oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, as they are more commonly known, boast some of the most impressive health benefits among all superfoods while remaining totally tasty. No wonder they feature as divine gifts from the gods in ancient Chinese folklore. Not drooling yet? Let’s take a closer look at what makes these mystical wonders so worthy of our respect.

What’s in them?

Composed mostly of water, carbohydrates and protein, mushrooms are generally an excellent source of dietary fibre and energy. However, oyster and shiitake mushrooms raise the bar when it comes to medicinal benefits. Thanks to the statins they naturally produce, grey and pink oyster mushrooms have been shown to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. LDL cholesterol is one of the main factors associated with cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, which is the leading cause of death in the Western world. 

But these unassuming superfoods don’t stop there. Like shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms contain beta-D-glucan polysaccharides, carbohydrates which are believed to boost the immune system’s response against cancer. The shiitake mushroom, whose medicinal properties have been known for millennia, is also a natural anti-inflammatory and immune system fortifier with compounds that promote the production of white blood cells. Shiitakes are also great sources of vitamins B and D2, which are essential to the healthy functioning of the digestive, metabolic and cell creating processes in the body. Oh yeah, and they’re also aphrodisiac. 

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The tasty bit

It’s not just nutritional value that makes these mushrooms so invaluable to any foodie’s arsenal. It’s also their unique taste and versatility. Considered delicacies in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisines, grey oyster mushrooms have a nutty umami flavor with a hint of sweet anise, making them perfect for stir-fries, stews and sauces.

Pink oyster mushrooms are chewier and resemble meat in taste and texture, making them a better choice as a topping for a pasta or risotto dish, or as a plant based alternative to bacon. They have a shelf life of about one day, which means you won’t find them in the supermarket. 

Similarly, shiitake mushrooms have a buttery, earthy taste when cooked and are excellent when sautéed or incorporated into a broth. The most sought after kind of shiitake are known as donko, and are a rarer, smaller kind distinguishable by the white cracks in their caps. Hungry yet? Check out some more recipes here and get cooking!

Funky fungi

Delicious and therapeutic, the virtues of these mushrooms seem endless. But wait, there's more...

Recent discoveries in the field of mycology have revealed the indispensable role of mycelia in maintaining healthy soils and enabling communication between individual trees. In the case of grey oyster mushrooms, these mycelia are also used to paralyze and digest nematodes that come to prey on them, making them one of few carnivorous fungi. 

Moreover, oyster mushrooms are able to neutralize and restore soils that have been contaminated by toxins like diesel oil, adding to their reputation as caretakers of the forest. In fact, these heroic fungi are even able to grow upon and degrade oxo-biodegradable plastics.

But perhaps the most bizarre discovery yet was made less than two years ago when a pink oyster mushroom was hooked up to a modular synthesizer. The result is an otherworldly and yet surprisingly pleasant musical track reminiscent of Mort Gartner’s Plantasia (1976). Who knows, perhaps the future of music will be plant-based too.

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Behind the scenes

These truly are magical organisms. It’s such a shame that so many of them are harvested only to be thrown away at the whim of merciless retail corporations because they don’t fit their aesthetic standards. That’s why we believe in salvaging these virtuous foods; so that you get a chance to experience what it truly means to be taken care of while caring for those around you.

But the real hero of this story is the person providing them, mushroom cultivator Bruno Miguel. Bruno runs Mushrooms Mountain, a family-owned mushroom production out of Valverde, Alcanede. He has been supplying Equal Food with his delicious surplus produce since 2019, and represents one of our longest and most cherished partnerships. Small, devoted and organic, Mushrooms Mountain is exactly the kind of business Equal Food strives to support and we are truly grateful for the beloved additions they bring to our baskets .