Mighty mushrooms!

Mighty mushrooms!

These days, mushrooms are coming out of forests and urban greenhouses into the light… of fancy restaurants! From being the secret ingredient in delicious sauces to the star of vegetarian mains, this trendy ingredient needs a closer look.

Mushrooms grow naturally in wooded undergrowth, but this fall, prepare to see them everywhere! American organic food giant Whole Foods has even tapped the mushroom as one of its big food trends of the year “…and that’s only the beginning,” exclaims Jean-Philippe Cournoyer, former chef at Pois Penché and co-owner of Les Passionnés, a Val-David restaurant where mushrooms are often the main attraction on the menu. “People are more and more interested in them. They’re wild and lovely to look at… and many have an irresistible hazelnut-like taste.”


Medicinal mushrooms?

Not consumed for their tastiness alone, certain mushroom varieties – like reshi, chaga, hydne hedgehog or shiitake – have been known to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as promote memory and learning. What are some other benefits, you ask? “They’re actually a superfood,” concludes Champignons Maison’s Geoffroy Renaud-Grignon. This company sells at-home mushroom growing kits. “Mushrooms are high in protein and vitamins, and can replace meat in a lot of dishes – which is why they’re sometimes called ‘vegetarian steak’.”


Did you know?

Even though they’re cooked like vegetables, mushrooms are actually cryptogams, which don’t flower or use seeds to reproduce and don’t produce fruit.


Growing mushrooms in the city

In urban areas, mushrooms grow like, well, mushrooms! Just ask Dominique Lynch-Gauthier and Lysiane Roy-Maheu, whose company – Blanc de Gris – specializes in fresh oyster-mushroom growing and selling. The mushroom-farming duo use organic waste (coffee grinds, brewers grains and wood chips) as their environmentally friendly growth medium. In their urban greenhouse located in an old warehouse in the heart of the Montréal borough of Hochelaga, they produce 200 kilos of oyster mushrooms each week for some 40 restaurants. “Mushrooms in Quebec are like cheese was 10 years ago,” comments Roy-Maheu. “We’re catching up to Europe and Asia where people have developed all sorts of ways to use them. What’s held us back has been the fear of poisonous varieties.”


Mushrooms on the menu

Olivier Perret, executive chef at the Renoir Restaurant in Hotel Sofitel Montréal, admits he has mushroom fever: “I’ve loved mushrooms since I was little!” During his youth in the Burgundy area of France, Perret grew button mushrooms in a railway tunnel and sold them each week at a local market. They’ve never since strayed far from his heart. “I always put them on the menu. In the winter, it’s oyster mushrooms but, in the summer, lobster mushrooms, chanterelles, girolles, black chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms, cep… When autumn arrives, not only does Chef Perret sautée them or use them in classic dishes but he also sneaks them into desserts like crème brûlée or pannacotta. “Mushrooms have character with woodsy and mineral flavours – and a great texture as well. They always add something magical to your cuisine.”


Seasonal treasures

At Jardins Sauvages in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, chef and owner Nancy Hinton is a well-known pioneer of ‘wild gourmet’ – her speciality for 30 years now. Every autumn, a whopping 30 varieties of mushroom are featured on her restaurant’s forest-gourmet menu, and each dinner ends with mushroom-flavoured coffee or a mushroom infusion. “Wild mushrooms have aromas of chocolate, vanilla and butter, which makes them great candidates for dessert dishes. You should taste my tiramisu!”




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