When the rains set in around the Pacific Northwest, wild mushroom hunters head to the woods searching for elusive morsels popping out of the forest floor. Believe it or not, without bacteria and fungi, nothing on earth would decompose. Fidalgo Island is home to oyster, matsutake, and hedgehog mushrooms, among others.

Storage Tips: Purchase mushrooms which are firm and not shriveled or slimy. Store in a paper bag in the fridge. Rinse mushrooms immediately before cooking or slicing to avoid them soaking up water and becoming spongy. Alternately, sun dry mushrooms completely and store at room temperature in a sealed jar.

FYI: White buttons represent 90% of mushrooms consumed in the US.

Nutrition: While a great texture substitute for meat, mushrooms are not a good source of protein. They are, however, a good source of selenium, an antioxidant which supports immunity. Mushrooms are low in calories and carbohydrates, and are a source of beta-glucans. They are also one of the only foods to contain natural Vitamin D. To enhance the Vitamin D in mushrooms, set them in the sun, as UV exposure turns ergocalciferol to active Vitamin D. One portabella treated in this way supplies 1,000 IU Vitamin D!

Fun Facts: The largest living organism in the world is the Armillaria ostoyae, a mushroom covering over 2,000 acres in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon! The young Matsutake mushroom is highly-prized in Japan, often given as a gift, costing $100-$500 per pound. Morel mushrooms grow profusely in the spring in areas burned the previous year by wildfires. There are over 6,000 types of mushrooms in the world, of which 100 are known to be poisonous.

Caution! Only gather wild mushrooms with the help of an expert. Amatoxin is responsible for 95% of mushroom related fatalities; it disrupts RNA polymerase II destroying the liver, often within 48 hours of ingestion. Search peer-reviewed journals to learn more about research being done using mushrooms in the fight against breast and prostate cancers as well as insulin resistance.

Click here for a great Mushroom and Black Bean Veggie Burger recipe!

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