Mushrooms are extremely healthy and very cool. If you aren’t already hip to the astoundingly long list of their health benefits, I recommend you listen to any podcast with Paul Stamets and buy his book Mycelium Running.
There are a lot of different mushrooms, and a variety of perspectives from which to examine them. I’ll definitely write more of these posts, likely with more focus on nutrition or mental health benefits.
Today, though, I just want to give an overview of my 5 favorite mushrooms and why I love them.
Chanterelles are beautiful and uniquely delicious. They’re also great for novice foragers because they only have two easily identifiable lookalikes.
While most people seek chanterelles for their flavor, not their funciton, they have a lot of health benefits. These include high fiber, anti-inflammatory properties, and high content of vitamins and minerals like zinc.
Zinc is important because it promotes neurogenesis, the brain’s processes that repair damaged neurons and grow new ones.
My friend Cam took me out chanterelle hunting recently, and in about an hour we each picked over 10 lbs of chanterelles! They became, soups, pastas, stroganoffs, and other delicious snacks.
There are a lot of ways to use chanterelles, but because of their inherent flavor, many people love to simply sautee them in garlic and butter. No arguments here.
These mushrooms, originally grown in East Asia, are wonderful for cooking and are a staple of natural medicine.
I recently used shiitake mushrooms along with some criminis in a beef stroganoff. There are countless ways to cook with them, though, in vegetarian meals as well.
Many people use shiitakes as a meat substitute because of their delightful chewiness and high amino acid content. They’re not an exact meat analog, but they have a lot of the aminos and other nutrients that you get from meat.
I was vegan for almost a year during college, and I ate a ton of mushrooms for these exact reasons.
Shiitakes have a buttery, meaty flavor and can even taste a bit smoky when properly dried. There are also countless marinades you can use to accent and enliven these natural qualities.
They’re an important part of a well-rounded health regimen. With a variety of nutrients, it’s hard to argue against adding these into your diet.
These things win hands down on the aesthetic. It looks like Hayao Miyazaki and Dr. Seuss teamed up to create the perfect fantasy fungus.
Wacky appearance aside, these mushrooms make an amazing fish substitute and have many powerful health benefits.
They’re one of the most popular nootropic fungi because they help repair and grow neurons.
The mainstream scientific opinion used to be that once neurons died, there was no way to fix or regrow them.
That’s been widely disproved now, and Lion’s mane is one of the best natural medicines for improving brain function. Growing new neurons allows neurotransmitters to flow more freely, which improves memory, learning ability, and your overall mood.
Reishis are one of the most highly prized medicinal fungi. They’ve been used to reduce stress and increase longevity for over 2,000 years in China and Japan.
Their adaptogenic properties improve sleep, elevate brain function, and support your immune system.
Unfortunately, Reishis are not great for cooking. They have a bold flavor that’s distasteful to most people.
I compare it to burnt caramel and bitter soggy treebark. Not great, but I kinda like it. I’m weird though.
If you’ve ever tried pure kava, that’s a pretty good analog. Maybe there’s something about calming herbs and fungi that gives them that bitter, earthy flavor.
When my friend gave me a big jar of Reishi tea recently, I did make one pretty tasty concoction. I added carob, honey, and a tiny bit of mint, resulting in a smooth, well-rounded flavor.
And the tea gave me an instant cleansing sensation, along with a feeling that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.
Like lion’s mane, reishi has become a very popular supplement. A lot of companies now use Reishis in all kinds of myco-enhanced health products.
Plot twist! These little mushrooms are commonly called “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms” (if you’re over 40).
They’re also a natural source of psilocybin, an alkaloid that new research suggests has immense benefits for anxiety, depression, ptsd, and a variety of other mental problems.
Now, especially in Silicon Valley, people use microdoses of psilocybin to increase their focus and productivity.
I can attest to miscrodosing’s benefits. The few times I’ve taken 1g microdose capsules, I feel mostly normal, but my anxiety and the inner voice that holds me back are much quieter than usual.
Earlier this year, Denver decriminalized Psilocybin, and now we’re seeing a new industry growing to meet the demand for this potent nootropic compound.
Once psilocybin products hit the mass market, people will be able to unlock their mental capacity in previously impossible ways. I bet there’s a lot of opportunity in combining psilocybin with other fungi, like Lion’s mane and Reishi, to create super potions that give us mental superpowers.
If you have a good VPN set up and can tolerate some risk, it’s possible to buy cyanocens growing kits online and get started cultivating your own nootropics.
Honorable mention: Enoki mushrooms
Aren’t they just the cutest?
These are a close second to lion’s mane on aesthetic appeal, and they also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Throw these in your noodle soup and you have a delicious nutritious preventative medicine.