Why its important to cook mushrooms before eating them
If you look on social media lately, it seems that there has been a resurgence in the interest of foraging wild foods, especially for foraging mushrooms. We have “jumped on the bandwagon” so to speak, and we have been having a lot of fun diving deep into the mythology, science, and “how to” of the fungi foraging world video our StoneAgeMan Mushroom Series. Along the way, we have run into a few mushroom myths to dispelling. Some myths are mostly harmless and some are quite dangerous. One of the myths we found important to talk about was about cooking mushrooms, as we detail below:
The Mushroom Myth
Cooking mushrooms is optional.
Idea that it’s optional to cook mushrooms is mostly… FALSE! Though you can eat the store-bought button mushrooms without cooking them, don’t apply this same practice to wild and/or medicinal mushrooms.
It’s not that raw mushrooms are going to kill you (as long as they are safe ones in the first place), but they aren’t good for you, and more importantly, you won’t reap the many benefits that these fantastic fungi have to offer if you eat them raw!
So why should you cook mushrooms?
Fungi is largely composed of chitin, which when unaltered (not cooked in this case), will just pass directly through you! Chitin is a common natural polysaccharide. It is what gives the strength to exoskeletons in insects, marine invertebrates like crabs and lobsters, and the cell walls of fungi!
When it comes to fungi, since you can’t peel the chitin away like you would on a lobster, this tough material has to be broken down with heat instead. You can think about it like this: eating raw mushrooms is kind of like swallowing a lobster whole instead of just eating the meat from inside the shell! Essentially, you have to heat the fungi to break down the chitin, or your body won’t be able to absorb any nutrients from it.
This means if you choose not to cook foraged mushrooms you will not benefit from the protein, beta-glucans, or other great properties found in wild and medicinal mushrooms.
So, long story short, foraged and medicinal mushrooms must be cooked or made into tea before you consume them so that your body is able to benefit from all of their great properties! And really, the good news is, you can experiment with how you cook foraged mushrooms at home with many different foraged mushroom recipes found online!
Watch the Experts Explain Why You Can’t Eat Mushrooms Raw
This mushroom info comes from our expert mycologists Tradd Cotter and Medicinal Mushroom Expert Robert Rogers (Myth 4).