Getting to Know the Edible Mushrooms – Rockstars of Many Plant-Based Dishes

Mushrooms, often categorized with vegetables, are actually from the fungi family. There are many types of edible mushrooms, varying in both health benefits and flavor.  Mushrooms are usually portrayed as a cap topped mushroom as its general image. Some mushroom families, though, have a distinct and different look.  This article will present an overview of the major edible mushrooms of the world, providing you with a bit of background about these wonderful ingredients for many plant-based dishes.



The various types of mushrooms are integrated into all kinds of recipes. They add nutty, meaty, and smoky flavors to foods and come loaded with vitamins and minerals. The nutritional benefits extend beyond basic vitamins in many cases. Edible mushrooms contain bioactive molecules that support your body in its fight against inflammation and viruses.  Ingesting mushrooms in food, oils, and liquids can help your body fight disease. For example, edible mushrooms are used by many cultures to ward off cancer, improve immunity, and lower inflammation. They are also known for improving heart health and brain function.  Edible mushrooms may also help with weight management and support vitamin D absorption from the sun.


Mushrooms, produced worldwide, hail from China, North America, the and throughout Europe, including the Netherlands, Poland, and Iran.  They are very popular in European countries of Italy, Spain, England, and France.  Some mushrooms are grown in the wild while others are cultivated.  Wild mushrooms are generally very expensive due to their relative scarcity.  Truffles, for example, are mostly found using trained dogs or by taking pigs to search for them. The animals are able to locate these mushrooms due to the pungent scent. It is much more difficult for humans to find these mushrooms in the wild.  Since the process is so complicated, truffles remain a delicacy in the culinary world.


Edible mushrooms can be quite nutritious and useful in holistic and therapeutic recipes. It is necessary to distinguish the dangerous and poisonous wild mushrooms.  Mushrooms absorb the substances from the soil around them so it is important to understand the conditions of their growth, avoiding mushroom that grow in soil with heavy metals, toxins, and natural poisons.  Generally it is preferred to buy edible mushrooms from supermarkets or other reputable vendors as you will know they are less likely to have been come from a toxic place.


Edible mushrooms are sold and consumed in a variety of forms for many different uses. They come fresh, dried, canned, ground into powder, infused with oil, and prepared for tea.  Fresh and dried mushrooms are the best to use in cooking – they will be the most natural and untainted forms. Some people eat mushrooms raw, in salads and as a garnish.  However,  I always cook my mushrooms, as I feel it is safer and that it brings out the most taste and nutrients from them.



Porcini are my very favorite mushrooms.  They are indigenous to the US and Europe.  They have a wonderful woody taste that is unique and imparts a fabulous flavor to many dishes.  In its dried form, porcini mushrooms contain a lot of protein. As a matter of fact, they contain more protein than any vegetables excluding soybeans. They harvest in the fall season but are available year-round in wholefood markets.  You can purchase little packet of them dried and will need to soak and rehydrate them before adding to your sauces or other dish.

Portobello / Baby Bella


The Portabella mushroom, named after a town in Italy where they originated, are now produced in the US.  On average they contain more potassium than a banana. This strain of mushroom is historically known as the “poor man’s meat”. In times of poverty, the portobello mushroom replaced meat. It is similar in texture with meaty qualities and a deep flavor.   Portabellas are very versatile in cooking and are great to stuff with a variety of ingredients.



Shiitake mushrooms and used in many types of Asian dishes and add a nice unique flavor.  They uniquely contain all eight essential amino acids.  Shiitake also have properties that neutralize oxidative stress in your body. Japanese shiitake mushrooms have many medicinal properties. They reportedly provide a chemical component that acts as a natural treatment for cancer.  Other minerals in these mushrooms can help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure. They can also fight off infectious diseases and help to control blood sugar.  However, most of all they are delicious and make great additions to your recipes!



Cremini mushrooms are the most popular and widely produced mushroom worldwide. They are the white button mushrooms found in the produce aisle of the supermarket. These mushrooms grow filled with nutrients. These nutrients include potassium, protein, zinc, copper, phosphorus and selenium. The extracts from creminis aid in reducing hormonal imbalances. These hormone imbalances have strong links to breast cancer. They also contain a high source of fatty acid that controls estrogen production. This fatty acid can reportedly stop tumor growth by blocking the effects of the dangerous enzymes.



Enoki mushrooms are a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. They can be found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets. They are fibrous mushrooms that contain vitamins such as calcium, iron, and selenium. They also provide antioxidants to the body. These properties are being studied with links to the prevention of cancer development. They boost the immune system and reduce inflammation as well.



Oyster mushrooms originated in its common form from Germany.  Their caps are similar in resemblance to oysters. They are very high in iron and have anti-inflammatory properties. They are traditionally included holistic remedies for joint pain and muscular aching, and are added to many savory dishes for their taste and texture.



Morels are a wild mushroom often found in forests in the spring season. They are from the same family of mushrooms as truffles, known as Ascomycetes. The growth of morels links to areas of the forests that experienced forest fires on the soil. They contain fiber, iron, manganese and lots of protein. They are also rich in vitamins like potassium, vitamin B, and vitamin D.  They do have a unique taste that can define the dish to which they are added.



Chanterelles are wild mushrooms also grown in Pacific Northwest forests. They are rich in vitamin D2 – a vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium. These mushrooms have a meaty flavor and are high in protein. Like Shiitake mushrooms, they contain eight essential amino acids. They also have significant potassium, iron, and various vitamins. Unlike other wild mushrooms, Chanterelles do not attract insects and other wildlife.


chaga mushroom

Not much to look at, chaga is a mushroom consumed as a tea largely for its many reputed medicinal properties. It is usually sold in the form of a ground powder. Brewing this powder, you can ingest the mushroom and enjoy its medicinal properties.  Typically consumed as a tea,  the raw powder can also be added to smoothies, soups, or stews to impart additional nutritional value to your dish.



Reishi mushrooms are also known for their medicinal properties and are quite popular in Chinese medicine. They have been used in China for thousands of years as a way to fight chronic disease. They reportedly contain properties that fight inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. They also correct hormonal imbalances and mood disorders. They are a good and natural remedy for anxiety and stress both physiologically and psychologically. These mushrooms can be bought in pill form. They used to be known in China as “medicine of kings” because they can enhance concentration as well as reduce stress.



Maitake mushrooms have been studied for their natural holistic capabilities. The nutrients are linked to enhancing hormonal balance and the reduction of cancer growth. Maitake mushrooms have a history of improving the lives of AIDS patients. They also have been associated with regulation of the blood sugar levels in diabetics.


Mushrooms are an amazing addition to all types of cooking, especially for vegan diets as they provide an hearty, meaty texture.  Beyond their wonderful tastes and textures, the benefits of edible mushrooms extend much further than just flavor and nutrition. Incorporating different types of mushrooms in your cooking can help spice up your food and possibly improve your overall health.  Don’t forget mushrooms when planning your plant-based meals!  Bon appetit!


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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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