My local farmers market features a stand called Herb n’ Oyster Mushroom Farm which specializes in gorgeously smooth, billowing oyster mushrooms of hues ranging from smoky grey to sunshine yellow. Fascinating themselves with self-sufficiency, organic gardening, and the “back-to-the-land” philosophy while living in Maine, Joe Landis and Kari Wendt packed up their gourmet mushroom knowledge and moved to McFarland, WI to sell their products commercially. Currently, they offer their lovely oysters as well as shiitakes, lion’s mane, and a hand-dried mushroom mix.
Landis often focuses on the medicinal quality of mushrooms, about which he briefly informed me when I spotted a bag of dried reishi mushrooms at his stand a couple weeks ago during the winter indoor farmers market. After his short explanation of the century-long Chinese appreciation of reishi as a powerful herbal remedy, I immediately snagged a bag of the dried mushrooms, always eager to experiment with new so-called “superfoods.”
Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which stimulate the immune system to fight cancer and stabilize blood sugar, as well as triterpenes, otherwise known as ganoderic acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and improve liver functions. In Asian cultures, the reishi mushroom symbolizes longevity and supposedly cultivates spiritual peace of mind, inspiring its alternate titles as the “Mushroom of Immortality” and “Herb of Good Fortune.”
I certainly don’t adhere to the philosophy that one “miracle” ingredient can cure any disease or significantly improve someone’s health (especially if they don’t alter their lifestyle in other critical manners, such as through improved diet, exercise, and stress relief), but rather consider “superfoods” as simply additional nutritionally dense friends at the already crowded party of wholesome deliciousness called the vegan diet. That said, I still get a kick out of adding a spoonful of lucuma to my smoothie or digging into a bowl of chia pudding, pretending that it will significantly boost my energy and skyrocket my health to the next level. Hey, can’t my imagination have a little fun? Thus, I looked forward to adding another “superfood” to my repertoire.
The most common forms of reishi supplements include pills/tablets, liquid extracts, powders, and tea. While I initially contemplated brewing a large batch of reishi tea, the resounding conclusion in the online community that it “tastes nasty” steered me in another direction: powder. Instead of buying a jar of pre-ground reishi for $40.00 or more, I implemented my economical $3.00 bag of dried reishis from Herb n’ Oyster.
The process is unbearably simple:
- Break the reishi mushrooms into small pieces, about coin-sized. They should be malleable enough to snap with your hands, though you may have to pull out a hammer if your reishis are particularly sturdy.
- Place the mushroom pieces in a spice grinder and pulse until a fine powder forms.
- Store well-sealed in a cool, dry place. Will keep indefinitely.
With the powder, you can steep tea, add it to smoothies, simmer it in soups, or include it in any recipe that features other types of mushrooms. For my first endeavor with my homemade reishi powder, I sauteed it along with onion, garlic, ginger, and carrots before adding heaps of vegetables, seaweed, and chickpeas for an earthy, nutritional powerhouse of a stir-fry.
Comment Provoking Questions: Have you ever heard of/experimented with reishi mushrooms before? What is your favorite “superfood”? Do you have any mushroom farmers at your local farmers market?
Until next time, Ali.