Nature’s Hidden Treasure
The Mushroom Council is composed of fresh-market, cultivated mushroom producers or importers who handle an average of more than 500,000 pounds of mushrooms annually. The goal of the Council is to create demand for mushrooms everywhere consumers eat. Fat-free, low calorie and nutrient dense, mushrooms have natural antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals making them nature’s hidden treasure. In order to create demand, the Council aggressively participates in culinary development with chefs, promotional support with chains and overall education and research.
Cultivated mushrooms include:
A Culinary Superfood
While there are more than 3,000 articles that have been written about mushrooms as a superfood because of their nutritional benefits, for chefs and restaurant chains, the incredible uni-versatility of mushrooms is what makes them a culinary superfood. Mushrooms fit in every daypart—from breakfast and brunch to dinner and lunch—as well as every part of the menu, whether it’s appetizers, sandwiches, sides or even center of the plate. They are an integral part of virtually every global cuisine, and their complex flavor and umami help serve as a flavor carrier and a natural sodium reducer while bringing out the best in every dish.
“It’s so rewarding to see our guests respond to umami, the sublime experience that mushrooms bring to our signature dishes. When I see someone’s eyes close brieﬂy as they are eating, or the sauce wiped clean from the plate, that’s when I know I’ve earned a guest that will come back again and again.” — chef Alex Guarneschelli, Butter Restaurant, NYC
The Trend is to Blend
Every chef knows that mushrooms serve as a meat enhancer (top topping on burgers and steak), a meat replacer (the “meat” in meatless) and a protein extender. But now more and more chefs are naturally blending finely-chopped, umami-rich mushrooms with ground meats to create healthier menus and still give consumers the iconic foods they love like burgers, meatballs, tacos, crab cakes and meatloaf. Sensory research from CIA shows that consumers like the blended meat and mushroom dishes even better than the 100% meat. And that’s before they found out that they are saving approximately 25% of the calories, 50% of the saturated fat, as much as 20% of the sodium and more. What’s more, a number of operations have demonstrated that the food cost saving by blending mushrooms with meat can be as high as a whopping 30%. The top food publications are writing about this “concept of the future”, retailer supermarkets are selling blended items, a major meat supplier is blending mushrooms into their burgers, schools are adding the blends to their menus and, of course, colleges, business dining and commercial chains are adopting this concept with extraordinary success.
“Using mushrooms in our burgers is not only healthier but it adds taste. It induces trial in both people searching for more flavors or a healthier burger option. We have found benefits in both flavor and cost.”
~ Eric Ernest, Executive Chef, University of Southern California
Mushrooms were known as the “plant of immortality” among the ancient Egyptians. In other civilizations like China, Greece, Russia, Mexico and Latin America, mushrooms were believed to have properties that could produce super-human strength and lead the soul to the realm of the gods. While we don’t know about that, we do know that they can make magic on your menu. As Bob Okura from Cheesecake Factory says, “ From a chef’s perspective, mushrooms are a culinary gift, offering more creative potential and versatility than just about any other vegetable.”
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