The Spring mushroom

Delicious, expensive and rare, aptly describe this mushroom. It is traded like a global commodity with spot prices set weekly based on supply. I notice that today’s price for 1kg in London is £100. We have brought groups as far as Turkey to find, eat and celebrate it at an annual festival in the beautiful village of Uzumlu.

I am, of course talking about the Morel. It is harvested commercially throughout the world from Europe to Asia to the USA where it is picked by groups of migrant foragers who travel to the best regions for the season with a view to making small fortunes. Stories abound of people making over $1,000/day. Temporary buyer stations are established in villages throughout the western mountain ranges. If you’re interested in getting  involved take a look at this morel forum where the pickers and buyers meet. But be warned it is very hard physical work

Morels from Cavan cropped

Black Morels on mulch

covering difficult terrain and can sometimes involve armed conflict with rival morel hunting groups.

Morels seem to be widespread throughout Ireland. The most common morel finds that I hear about are on mulch. Mulching and spreading infected wood seems to prompt a flush of morels and therefore quite a few people first encounter them on managed beds. However this is usually the  “Black Morel “(Morchella elata) which is not as good an eater as the ironically elusive “Common Morel“(Morchella esculenta).

Of course, the other important point to make about

morel in wicklow

Common Morel

the Morel is that it is one of the very few Spring season eaters. This is possibly one of the reasons that we don’t see it very often, as most  of our mushroom hunting is done in the late-summer/Autumn season.

The passionate new wave of wild food chefs are already out there and finding morels for their seasonal/local menus. This photo of the Common Morel found in Wicklow was provided by Eric Heilig from the recently Michelin starred Heron & Grey in Blackrock. You can expect to see morels on their current seasonal menu.

So get out there and find some morels. But  beware the false morel “Gyromitra Esculenta” which is toxic. Tip – Gyromitra has a solid stem whereas true morels have hollow stems.

The above is for general guidance only. Never eat any wild mushroom unless it is identified as safe to eat by an expert.

Multiply the Vitamin D levels in your Mushrooms by exposing to sunlight

Most of us living in northern climes suffer from vitamin D deficiency, particularly in the sun starved winter months. Vitamin D is essential for the immune system, strong healthy bones, teeth and the absorption of calcium. More recently it has also been found to help to regulate hundreds of genes.

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According to a recently completePair of parasols.jpgd study, “Mushrooms exposed to the sun can provide as much vitamin D as a health supplement”. In the study, 30 adults were given a daily capsule for 12 weeks containing either 2,000 units of vitamin D, or sun-exposed mushroom powder with high-levels of the nutrient. At the end of the trial, there was no significant difference in the participants’ vitamin D levels. The study lead author Dr Michael Holick went on to say that “These results provide evidence that ingesting mushrooms which have been exposed to ultraviolet light and contain vitamin D2, are a good source of vitamin D that can improve the vitamin D status of healthy adults. Furthermore we found ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 was as effective in raising and maintaining a healthy adult’s vitamin D status as ingesting a supplement that contained either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3”. These findings were presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Microbiology meeting in Boston and also published in the journal of Dermato-Endocrinology. Dr Holick also stated that mushrooms continue to produce the nutrient even after they are harvested as long as they are placed in direct sunlight.

Another study at Penn State University found that by exposing a single serving of mushrooms to direct sunlight for an hour or two anytime between 10AM and 3PM will boost the vitamin D levels to provide 824% of the recommended daily value for an adult. Interestingly that figure was just for white button mushrooms, oyster and shiitake mushrooms achieved even higher multiples.

For those of us who consume wild mushrooms it is likely that the sunshine boost is already present assuming they that they have grown in natural light conditions. Furthermore it seems that there is no significant decrease in the vitamin D levels caused by drying and/or cooking mushrooms.

Multiply the Vit D in your mushrooms

Most of us living in northern climes suffer from vitamin D deficiency, particularly in the sun starved winter months. Vitamin D is essential for the immune system, strong healthy bones and teeth and the absorption of calcium. More recently it has also been found to help to regulate hundreds of genes.

According to a recently completed study, “Mushrooms exposed to the sun can provide as much vitamin D as a health supplement”. In the study, 30 adults were given a daily capsule for 12 weeks containing either 2,000 units of vitamin D, or sun-exposed mushroom powder with high-levels of the nutrient. At the end of the trial, there was no significant difference in the participants’ vitamin D levels. The lead author Dr Michael Holick went on to say that, “ we found that ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 was as effective in raising and maintaining a healthy adult’s vitamin D status as ingesting a supplement that contained either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3”. These findings were presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Microbiology meeting in Boston and also published in the journal of Dermato-Endocrinology. Dr Holick also stated that mushrooms continue to produce the nutrient even after they are harvested as long as they are placed in direct sunlight.

 

SAMSUNG

Pan of mushrooms

Another study at Penn State University found that by exposing a single serving of mushrooms to direct sunlight for an hour or two anytime between 10AM and 3PM will boost the vitamin D levels to provide 824% of the recommended daily value for an adult. Interestingly that figure was just for white button mushrooms, oyster and shiitake mushrooms achieved even higher multiples.

For those of us who consume wild mushrooms it is likely that the sunshine boost is already present assuming they have grown in natural light conditions. Furthermore it seems that there is no significant decrease in the vitamin D levels caused by drying and/or cooking mushrooms.

3 Winter Fungi

This is a quite time of the year for Fungi, however there are still a few treats to be found in the woodlands. Specifically the Velvet Shank the Scarlet Elf Cup and the Oyster Mushroom. All three are tasty and relatively easy to identify. The oyster can vary significantly in colour from grey to yellow.

Image result for flammulina velutipes edible

Velvet Shank – Flammulina Velutipes

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Scarlet Elf Cup

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Oyster Mushroom

So keep an eye out for these wild mushrooms, also for wild garlic which is starting to sprout a lot earlier than usual. I like to use it to flavour my homemade vinegar and even add to my kimchi pot.