Here is how to select and store your mushrooms for maximum quality—plus an easy way to increase the Vitamin D content.
The enemy of fresh, packaged mushrooms is moisture. “Condensation on the packaging is the fastest way for mushrooms to break down,” says Darryl Mosher, associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America. Seek out packaged mushrooms that are dry. Your next priority when buying mushrooms is scent. Fresh mushrooms smell like, well, mushrooms—more earthy than funky. At home, store them in the refrigerator in a sealed paper bag to prevent moisture buildup.
This dead ringer for the classic dish saves nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving:
To prep, simply wipe down your mushrooms immediately before cooking (they’re pasteurized to kill bacteria prior to being packaged). For the most flavor, cook off all water that’s released.
And to enhance their nutrition prowess, put your pack of mushrooms in the sun for about 30 minutes. Mushrooms are the only plant that uses sunlight to make vitamin D, yet most are grown in the dark, so when you put them in natural sunlight for half an hour, you up their vitamin D content— between 150 IU and 600 IU per cup, or 25% to 100% of your daily vitamin D needs. If you chop them up first, you’ll increase sun contact and maximize D production. You also can buy vitamin D–enhanced mushrooms at well-stocked groceries.
If fungi turn you (or your picky eaters) off, but you still want to pack in extra vitamin D and antioxidants naturally, grind air-dried and sun-bathed mushrooms into a powder. Mushroom nutrients are heat-stable, so they won’t degrade when cooked, notes Robert Beelman, PhD, of the Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health at Pennsylvania State University. Toss the powder into anything from pasta sauce to casseroles—even bread flour.