Mushrooms are not only nutritious and delicious, but also provide many healthful and potentially medicinal benefits. The lion's mane mushroom is currently drawing the attention of researchers owing to its positive benefits to the human nervous system.
Lion's mane mushrooms look nothing like the grocery store cap-and-stem mushrooms. Lion’s mane are white, globular mushrooms and have other descriptive names such as sheep's head, and ‘pom pom blanc’ – referencing their resemblance to a cheerleader’s white pom-poms. This author's favorite name is the Latin name for lion's mane: Hericium erinaceus, meaning ‘hedgehog’.
Lion's mane mushrooms are available for one last weekend at the Saturday morning Oakwood Farm Market. Thacker’s Gourmet Mushrooms, purveyors of those delicious oyster mushrooms, is currently selling packages of fresh lion’s mane mushrooms for only $2.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are about 20 percent protein, and is purported to taste like lobster or shrimp when cooked, although this author thinks that has more to do with the texture of the mushroom. Somewhat bland in flavor, the mushroom is nonetheless quite tasty with either melted butter or prepared with a cream sauce.
Lion’s mane mushrooms have long been a part of traditional Chinese medicine, prescribed for stomach problems and cancer of the digestive system. Modern research indicates that the mushrooms also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and help support the immune system against certain other types of cancers.
Some of the most exciting research underway involves the mushroom’s neuroprotective effects. Two types of Nerve Growth Factors (NGFs) have been discovered in the mushroom thus far. NGFs are molecules which stimulate the differentiation and re-myelination of neurons. NGFs are proteins necessary for the proper functioning of the nerve cells that send information to the brain. Lack of NGF is considered a cause of certain neurological problems such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Healing neurons and myelin (the protective covering which surrounds the nerves) may be useful in treating dementia, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s and other neurological ailments.
To enjoy these healthful mushrooms, they need to be cooked slowly, as they are quite watery (high moisture content) and you will need to cook off the moisture to make them chewy as opposed to tough.
Basic sautéed lion’s mane mushrooms
Heat a pan over medium-high heat with a little olive oil. Add the mushrooms, cover the pan, and cook until the mushrooms are browned. Don't bother adding spices or butter until the mushrooms are nearly done, as they will give off a lot of water at first.
Keep checking on them and doing taste tests until they have become lightly browned.
As for the next recipe, you can use cream for the sauce but this author found that created a sauce that was a bit too heavy for the mushrooms; milk was a better substitute for the cream. You could also leave out the cream altogether for a nice sautéed sort of topping for rice or tofu.
Lion’s head mushrooms in a light cream sauce
- 1/2 lb lion's mane mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons flour
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they seem to have given off most of their liquid.
Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions have softened and the mushrooms are brown.
Add the flour and the rest of the butter. Cook several more minutes, stirring frequently to mix the melting butter with everything else.
Slowly pour in the milk and turn down the heat; let the mushrooms and the sauce simmer until it has reached the consistency you like.
Serve over rice or pasta, over tofu, or as a little side dish on its own.