by Sara Pingel 0 Comments

Button Mushrooms

Generally looking like tiny umbrellas attached to stems that are short and thick or thin and slightly curvy. There are three different types of button mushrooms - white, cremini, and portobello - all of which share the same scientific name Agaricus bisporus. 

The white mushroom, the most common type, is the cream colored mushroom that often adorns salads. It is usually 1 to 3 inches across and it has a mild earthy flavor with a meaty texture. The cremini mushroom, which looks like the button but is coffee colored, features a more distinctive and stronger flavor. The portobello mushroom, whose large size is up to 8 inches across, has a meaty flavor that makes it a wonderful vegetarian entrée and is actually an overgrown cremini mushroom. 

Button mushrooms are grown in straw-based compost in a controlled environment that is kept warm, moist, and dark as well as free from other fungi that may parasitize the mushrooms. Today, people in many countries enjoy and cultivate button mushrooms

White button mushrooms are an excellent source of many minerals including selenium, copper, potassium, and zinc and phytochemicals. They are also an excellent source of B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin in addition to possessing all of the nutritional highlights of white button mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms and portobellos are very good sources of vitamins B6 and B 12. 

For the past 30 or more years, phytochemicals found in mushrooms have been the object of anti-cancer research, most of this research has centered on their polysaccharide and beta glucan components. While most of this research has focused on shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms, even the three common mushrooms have been shown to contain polysaccharide and beta glucan components of anti-cancer properties. 

There are no safety concerns associated with the button mushrooms.

Mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi)  Although numerous types of mushrooms provide wonderful taste textures and helpful properties these three mushroom superstars have been recently received in widespread attention due to their health benefits and as a result are increasingly available:

  • Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) these have flashy brown slightly convex caps that range in diameter from 2 to 4 inches shiitakes are cultivated on logs in the United States and in many east Asian countries for their meaty robust flavor and texture
  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa) cultivated on tree stumps these mushrooms grow in a formation of clustered brownish 1 to 2 inch fronds forming a fan shape commonly known as ‘hen of the woods’ maitakes have a mild slightly aromatic flavor
  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) these usually have an antler or rounded fan shape with the most popular type of Rishi being red in color although that is just one of the six colors in which they grow these mushrooms are cultivated on dead trees and are very woody therefore they generally are not eaten but cooked and removed from dishes

Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium and polysaccharides and a very good source of iron. They are also good sources of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin C. Although the chemical profiles of all three mushrooms are quite complex, the health benefits of these mushrooms are due primarily to their polysaccharide components. 


The shiitake mushroom is a symbol of longevity in Asia because of its health promoting properties and has been used additionally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years. Recent studies have traced shiitake's legendary benefits to an active compound contained in these mushrooms called lentinan. Among lentinan’s healing benefits is the ability to power up the immune system strengthening its ability to fight infection and disease. Lentinan has also been shown to have anti-cancer activity. However, it may be that lentinan must be injected for this purpose because it is poorly absorbed orally. The shiitake mushroom has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels, in this action a compound known as eritadenine is responsible.


Maitake mushroom has also been used as a food to help promote wellness and vitality. Recent scientific research has focused on its immune enhancing and anti-cancer properties. 

Research has found that maitake extracts were quite effective when given orally. In contrast, the other mushrooms such as shiitake were effective only when injected into the bloodstream.  

The primary components responsible for maitake’s immune enhancing effects are beta-glucan that activate white blood cells. The beta-glucan components of maitake actually bind to receptors on the outer membranes of macrophages and other white blood cells including natural killer cells and cytotoxic T cells. These immune cells are very important in protecting against and fighting cancer because they attack tumor cells directly. 

Just like a key in a lock, the binding of the maitake components literally flips white blood cells on and triggers a chain reaction leading to increased immune activity.  In addition to increasing the ability of macrophages to engulf and destroy cancer cells, microbes, and other foreign cells, the binding stimulates the production of important signaling proteins of the immune system such as interleukin-1, interleukin-2, and lymphokines. These immune activators ramp up defenses by activating immune cells. 

Maitake beta-glucans also stimulate the production of white blood cells within bone marrow, the major area for white blood cell production. Reduced bone marrow production means lowered white cell count and an increased risk of infection and cancer. This beneficial effect of the beta-glucans is put to good use in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Maitake researchers have identified for primary mechanisms by which maitake fights cancer:

  • It protects healthy cells from become in cancerous.
  • It enhances the immune system‘s ability to seek out and destroy cancer cells.
  • It helps cancer cells regain control of cell division and programmed cell death (apoptosis).
  • It helps to prevent the spreading metastasis of cancer.

Maitake beta-glucan fractions are perfectly suited as an addition to conventional cancer therapies. In addition to exerting some direct benefits of its own, maitake helps reduce the side effects of conventional chemotherapy and radiation such as nausea, weight loss, fatigue, and immune suppression, while at the same time enhancing their effectiveness.


Reishi is the premier longevity herb and classical Chinese medicine and is the medicinal mushrooms/herb most often used as a general health tonic. Preliminary clinical studies have shown it to be helpful in boosting the immune system and in the treatment of viral infections, such as hepatitis B. Unlike shiitake and maitake, the beneficial effects of reishi appear to be primarily due to its triterpene fraction rather than its polysaccharides.

What to Look for and How to Store

Shiitake mushrooms are typically more commonly found than reishi or maitake. If your grocery store does not carry these, look for the nearest Asian market and try to find them there. While both fresh and dried button mushrooms are available throughout the year, try to buy fresh mushrooms. When you find them, look for ones that are firm, plump, and clean and avoid mushrooms that are wet, slimy, or wrinkled. Darkening is a sign of a mushroom's age so choose those mushrooms that are lightest in color. In general, fresh mushrooms should be white while cremini and portobello can be tan.

Storage of mushrooms is best when they are placed in a loosely closed paper bag. If you are concerned with them drying prematurely, you can wrap them in a slightly damp cloth or place them in a glass dish and then cover with a moistened cloth. These methods will help retain freshness for several days. If you choose dried mushrooms, they should be stored in a tightly sealed container in either the refrigerator or freezer - this way they can stay fresh for six months to one year. Cooked mushrooms can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.

 From  - The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray ND 

You drink mushrooms? Yes you can! 

Four Sigmatic makes getting the nutritional benefits of mushrooms easy and delicious! You can find functional mushrooms, such as reishi, lion's mane, cordyceps, and chaga in their collection of coffee, cocao, and shots!

Caramelized Mushrooms & Onions

Mushrooms are certainly one of the food staples in the Rutherford home. One of our favorite ways to eat mushrooms, is CARAMELIZED…!!  

We use this as a toping on meat, pizza, as a side dish, in a sauce etc.

  • 1 large  | Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 ounces | Mushrooms cleaned, stemmed and sliced
  • Butter (the good stuff)
  • Wine
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and mushrooms become tender.

The name of the game here is LOW AND SLOW..  

Add the wine to the onions and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until desired texture or until jammy.

Try adding in some heavy cream at the end to make a LUSCIOUS cream sauce to put on steak..YUMMMMMM

Sara Pingel
Sara Pingel


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