Creating Healthy Dishes With Crimini Mushrooms

Crimini or cremini mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are known when white as common mushroom, button mushroom, white mushroom, cultivated mushroom, table mushroom, and champignon mushroom; when brown as Paris mushrooms (champignons de Paris), Swiss brown mushroom, Roman brown mushroom, Italian brown, Italian mushroom, brown cap mushrooms, and chestnut mushroom; and when mature as Portobello mushroom.

Agaricus bisporus is native to grasslands in Europe and North America, and has grown wild since prehistoric times. The mushrooms were eaten by early humans. The Egyptians thought that they granted immortality, and because only the pharaohs were felt to be worthy of this gift, the common people were not even allowed to touch mushrooms, let alone eat them. In ancient Rome, people oftentimes referred to mushrooms as cibus diorum (food for the gods). The folklore of many cultures, including Russia, China, and Mexico, held that eating mushrooms could give someone superhuman strength. The cultivation of mushrooms for food most likely began in China, Japan, and India.

The earliest description of the commercial cultivation of Agaricus bisporus was made by French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1707. In France, mushrooms were cultivated in the catacombs beneath the city of Paris. The problem was that when they transplanted the mushroom, it would often get infected.

In 1893, sterilized, or pure culture, spawn was discovered and produced by the Pasteur Institute in Paris , and this assured that you could grow a consistent good mushroom. Cultivation of mushrooms began in the United States during 19th century.

The original mushroom Agaricus bisporus was brown, but in 1926 a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer discovered a strain that was bright white. Consumers at the time were obsessed with all things white, like white bread and white rice. This white mushroom became immediately popular. The brown mushrooms didn’t sell, so farmers culled small brown criminis and large brown portobellos and either discarded them or took them home. By the late 20th century, natural foods became popular, and growers discovered that there was a market for criminis and portobellos, and they actually fetched a higher price than the now-common white buttons.

Agaricus bisporus is cultivated in more than 70 countries and is one of the most commonly and widely consumed mushrooms in the world. Mushrooms are still commercially produced underground in the Tours and Saumur regions of France.  China is currently the world’s largest commercial producer of mushrooms, following by Europe and then the United States. Within the U.S., about 70% of all mushrooms are grown on the east coast, with the state of Pennsylvania having the highest U.S. yields.

Crimini mushrooms can:

  1. Support your immune system. White blood cells, including monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells, play a key role in the health of your immune system, and help protect you from diseases caused by microorganisms or from allergens. Unique phytochemicals in crimini mushrooms prevent some white blood cells from becoming active when they would be better off remaining inactive. In other cases, the phytochemicals trigger white blood cell activity when more activity is needed. The immune- phytochemicals in crimini mushrooms include beta-D-glucans, fucogalactans, APO (2-amino-3H-phenoxazin-3-one), p-tolyl-hydrazine, and other substances. Crimini mushrooms can help lower your risk of arthritis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease by supporting balanced activities among the white blood cells of your immune system. Another key nutrient for healthy immune system function is vitamin D, and crimini mushrooms, especially when exposed to sunlight, provide vitamin D.
  2. Fight chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases your risk of experiencing many common health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Many factors can contribute to chronic inflammation, including overproduction of molecules in your body that tell it to launch an inflammatory response, like IL-10 (interleukin-10), IL-12 (interleukin-12), and IFN-gamma (interferon-gamma). Eating whole fresh mushrooms can block production of pro-inflammatory molecules, reducing chronic inflammation, and sometimes preventing it from occurring at all.
  3. Fight free radicals. Crimini mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, and a very good source of zinc and manganese. All three minerals are critical antioxidants and are also required for the functioning of antioxidant enzymes. The antioxidant content of crimini mushrooms also includes some unusual antioxidant molecules, such as ergothioneine, an amino acid-like molecule that specifically helps prevent oxidative damage to DNA and proteins. In addition, crimini mushrooms can increase the activity of several oxidative enzymes, including superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. Crimini mushrooms can also increase your cells’ supply of glutathione, a central antioxidant in many cellular activities.
  4. Promote cardiovascular health. Crimini mushrooms can help protect you from cardiovascular disease by protecting your blood vessels (particularly your aorta) from oxidative damage as well as chronic inflammation. Eating crimini mushrooms daily over a period of one or two months can also reduce high blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Crimini mushrooms are also packed with heart-healthy B vitamins. In addition to being an excellent source of riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, crimini mushrooms are a very good source of vitamin B6 and thiamine, and a good source of choline and folate. They also may provide you with vitamin B12, most likely produced by bacteria on the surface of the mushroom caps. Deficiencies of vitamin B6 and B12 or folate can increase your risk of elevated homocysteine and, along with it, your risk of cardiovascular disease (especially atherosclerosis).
  5. Fight cancer. Crimini mushrooms can enhance your immune system’s ability to detect and deactivate cancer cells (or potentially cancerous cells). The can also enhance your inflammatory system’s ability to help trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells (or potentially cancerous cells). A special fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in crimini mushrooms may bind onto aromatase enzymes in breast cancer cells and reduce their ability to produce the estrogen that some breast cancer tumors depend on for their growth, which may help prevent or control this type of tumor. Prostate cancer cells are also known to produce aromatase enzymes, and may benefit from CLA. By providing you with their unique blend of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients, crimini mushrooms may be able to help you decrease your cancer risk not only for breast and prostate cancer, but for other cancer types as well, because most types of cancer begin their development in states of chronic inflammation and chronic oxidative stress.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Raw Crimini Mushrooms

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

selenium

26 µg

37%

riboflavin

0.5 mg

29%

copper

0.5 mg

25%

niacin

3.8 mg

19%

pantothenic acid

1.5 mg

15%

potassium

448 mg

13%

phosphorus

120 mg

12%

zinc

1.1 mg

7%

manganese

0.1 mg

7%

vitamin B6

0.1 mg

6%

thiamine

0.1 mg

6%

choline

22.1 mg

5.2%

protein

2.5 g

5%

folate

14 µg

3%

calcium

18 mg

2%

magnesium

9 mg

2%

fiber

0.6 g

2%

iron

0.4 mg

2%

vitamin D

7 IU

1.75%

Calories

27

1.35%

carbohydrates

4.1 g

1%

sodium

6 mg

0.25%

fat

0.1 g

0.15%

vitamin A

0 IU

0%

vitamin C

0 mg

0%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

Fresh and dried crimini mushrooms are available throughout the year. Look for crimini mushrooms that are firm, plump, clean, and brown. Avoid those that are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots. Choose certified organic mushrooms to avoid contamination with synthetic herbicides, insecticides, and heavy metals.

The best way to store loose crimini mushrooms is to keep them in the refrigerator set at 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) in a loosely closed paper bag, wrapped in a damp cloth, or laid out in a glass dish that is covered with a moist cloth. Avoid storage methods that leave the mushrooms stacked in one big clump. The less surface contact they have with one another, the fresher they will stay. You can avoid clumping by making a first layer of crimini mushrooms inside your paper bag or on top of your damp cloth or glass dish, and then cover this mushroom layer with a paper towel. Then place a second layer of crimini mushrooms on top of the paper towel. These storage methods will help preserve the mushrooms’ moisture without causing them to become soggy or slimy and keep them fresh for several days.

Mushrooms that are purchased prepackaged can usually be stored in the refrigerator for 3-7 days. However, to maximize freshness, remove them from the original container and store them according to one of the methods described above. Refrigerator storage is especially important for preserving the phytochemicals in crimini mushrooms. Do not leave mushrooms sitting out on the counter top or store them in a cabinet.

Store dried mushrooms in a tightly sealed container in either the refrigerator or freezer, where they will stay fresh for six months to one year.

Mushrooms are so porous that if they are exposed to too much water, they will quickly absorb it and become soggy. Clean them using little or no water by wiping them with a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen cloth, or use a mushroom brush.

If you are using the whole crimini mushroom in a recipe, slice off the very bottom of the stem. If your recipe calls for only the caps, gently break off the stems with your hands. You can chop the stems up to use as part of the mushroom stuffing, or slice them up into soup.

To sauté crimini mushrooms, heat 3 tablespoons of broth over medium heat in a skillet. When the broth begins to steam, add sliced crimini mushrooms and sauté for 7 minutes. Stir constantly for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Toss with your favorite dressing or seasonings.

To enjoy:

  • Use sautéed mushrooms and onions as a side dish
  • Add chopped crimini mushrooms to tomato pasta sauce
  • After removing the stems from crimini mushrooms, stuff them with your favorite stuffing
  • Add sliced crimini mushrooms to your tofu scramble
  • Add sliced or chopped crimini mushrooms to stir fries, soups, or stews
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