Meadows of mushrooms

Visiting the Meadow Mushrooms farm, Good editor Carolyn Enting learns there’s more to mushrooms than being a delicious meat substitute. 

It’s astonishing to learn that Meadow Mushrooms farm in Christchurch has been supplying New Zealanders with fresh portabello, white button and swiss brown mushrooms since 1970. 

Today it’s still focused on serving up the best-quality mushrooms to the domestic market, which means its more than likely the mushrooms that end up on your plate at your favourite café, or in your shopping basket have been grown here.

Meadow Mushrooms is only just keeping up with demand for its product, which is eye-opening when you consider they pick and process one million mushrooms every two days. A recent Statistics NZ study has shown that mushrooms are already New Zealanders’ fourth favourite vegetable even though it’s technically a fungi. Plus, demand for mushrooms is growing with more people choosing plant-based diets.

Grown in a compost mix, rich in selenium, gives Meadow Mushrooms extra magical properties, though witnessing them grow is magic enough. The mushrooms double in size every 24 hours (roughly four per cent per hour) which is why they are grown and harvested row by row, and layer by layer. By the time the picker returns to the start more mushrooms are ready to be delicately plucked as they are already eight per cent bigger.

Tip: Brush or wipe mushrooms with a damp towel before cooking but don’t wash them. This is because mushrooms are porous and will absorb water, which will dilute their flavour when cooked.

What’s interesting to learn is that the portabello mushroom is just a button that has been allowed to fully grow and unfurl to its frilly umbrella-like shape. Portabellos are generally more flavoursome than the swiss brown baby buttons. 

“Portabellos are a stronger flavour and can colour dishes like pasta but button mushrooms will not,” says CEO of Meadow Mushrooms John Barnes.

When exposed to sun they increase in vitamin D, which is why putting your mushrooms on the window ledge 30 minutes before eating is beneficial. Cooking mushrooms also increases its levels of vitamin C plus doesn’t destroy vitamin D.

Barnes recommends a handful of mushrooms a day as a good eating guide, particularly if your energy levels need a boost. Just a 100-gram serving will provide you with five out of the eight B vitamins – B7, B2, B3, B6 and B5 – as well as minerals selenium, copper, potassium and phosphorus. B group vitamins play an important role in helping to process energy from the food you ingest, and also help to form red blood cells and aid in reducing tiredness and fatigue. 

Storing mushrooms in a paper bag, cloth bag or cardboard punnet will help to keep them fresh. And like any fresh produce if it’s shrivelled up or slimy forget it. If it looks and smells good, bon appetit!

For more visit meadowsmushrooms.co.nz

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