What has 90 per cent of water and is often called the fruit part of a fungus and is available in numerous forms? No prizes for guessing that the answer is mushrooms. In India we find numerous varieties, including the white button, Portobello, shiitake, oyster, enoki, shimeji, porcini, and paddy straw mushrooms. And if the experts are to be believed, mushrooms are definitely set to rule the dining trends of 2024.
The popularity of mushrooms can be gauged from the 'India Mushroom Market Report: Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2023-2028', that pegs the India mushroom market to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 7.6 per cent during 2023-2028. Mushrooms are popular for their distinct umami earthiness, making them a beloved ingredient in various cuisines. “Their versatility shines through as they can be enjoyed in fresh or dried forms, adding depth and flavour to any dish. Beyond their culinary appeal, mushrooms offer a multitude of health benefits. Lion mushroom tea, for example, aids in gut health by promoting digestion and overall well-being. In Burmese cuisine, mushrooms also hold a special place, contributing to traditional dishes like Kauk-Swe and Mho Baung (sticky rice with mushrooms). The beauty of mushrooms is that they require minimal ingredients to create a flavourful and satisfying dish. With their exquisite taste and numerous health perks, mushrooms are an essential element of any culinary adventure,” says Krish Nayak, owner and co-founder, Societe Rangoon.
Mushrooms are a good source of protein and fibre, essential in maintaining immunity. The flavour of mushrooms is easily enhanced by the spices of the desired cuisine and their protein is easily digestible. Liang Xiao Qing, executive Chinese chef at ITC Maratha, Mumbai, adds, “Mushrooms act as a nutritional powerhouse, offering essential elements such as Vitamin D and antioxidants. This shift reflects a broader trend towards sustainable, plant centric eating, making mushrooms the new meat in the evolving landscape of food choices.”
Not all mushrooms possess the same health benefits; it depends upon the species and the nature of the environment during growth. “Compounds in mushrooms, such as beta-glucans and potassium, may support cardiovascular health by helping regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some mushrooms possess anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for conditions related to inflammation,” says Garima Dev Verman, certified nutritionist and medical content analyst, The Healthy Indian Project.
Adding mushrooms to your daily Indian cuisine can be both flavourful and nutritious. Akhil Multani, chef de cuisine, Bellona Hospitality says, “The most incredible health benefit that you can get from eating mushrooms is the low intake of sodium and lastly the promotion of gut health. This is one of the most important issues being addressed in the field of medicine today.”
Mushroom wellness represents the global growing trend of mushrooms for promoting health and well-being. Scientific research extensively supports the ultimate health benefits associated with mushrooms, highlighting their remarkable advantages for overall wellness. Richa Jaggi, co-founder & CMO, Awshad, a medical cannabis wellness startup opines, “Mushrooms serve as a holistic tool for enhancing our health and well-being, acting as adaptogens, plant-based substances that support our bodies in managing stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall vitality. Notably, mushrooms like reishi and chaga possess robust adaptogenic abilities.”
These adaptogens play a pivotal role in equipping our bodies to navigate stress effectively, fortifying the immune system, and fostering resilience on a holistic level. Mushrooms contain selenium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B6. “Selenium (a nutrient) in mushrooms helps your body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. Maitake mushrooms offer an easy way to add vitamin D to your diet. Shiitake adds vitamin B6 which helps your body form red blood cells and proteins,” says Shashank Bhatia, director of food & beverage, Raffles Udaipur.
2024's culinary trends include a focus on mushrooms and a rise in hyper-local cuisine, emphasising unique, sustainable, and community-driven dining experience. The demand for plant-based and sustainable dining is driving mushroom innovations.
“With their versatile qualities, mushrooms enhance plant-based cuisines, seamlessly blending into dishes from stews to gourmet burgers. "Their ability to absorb and enhance flavours makes them culinary chameleons. The shift towards a vegan lifestyle is propelling mushrooms into the spotlight as a superfood in the coming year. With medicinal benefits, ample protein, and versatility as a meat substitute, mushrooms are poised to dominate culinary menus. The increasing interest in stir-fry meals, adding veggies to sauces, or simply a desire for convenience, make them an excellent alternative for vegan choice-makers,” says Dinkar Sardesai, executive chef, ITC Windsor, Bengaluru.
From a nutritional perspective, mushrooms can be grilled, baked, braised, seated, or even pickled. “In fact, people are even doing sashimi, which is basically like instant cured mushrooms. Nutritionally, it is balanced, because it's a low-calorie item, which has more protein as compared to other vegetables. It has fibre and inculcates good digestive health. Plus, it is easily available in most parts as it doesn't require a lot of parameters and weather conditions to grow. You can mimic its growth atmosphere in any space or in any place,” says Lakhan Jethani, head chef and co-founder, Mizu Izakaya.
When it comes to sustainability, mushrooms shine as they are commonly cultivated through eco-friendly farming practices. “Often grown on agricultural by-products like straw or wood chips, they offer a promising eco-conscious food source, aligning perfectly with the growing trend of environmentally conscious food choices,” says Dinesh Mhatre, executive chef, The Orchid Hotel Pune.
Mushrooms have remarkable versatility as a plant-based meat alternative. “Their unique texture adds depth to vegetarian and vegan dishes, making them a go-to ingredient for those seeking a satisfying meat substitute. Rich in protein, fibre, and essential nutrients, mushrooms not only satisfy the palate but also contribute to a well-balanced diet,” says Biju Philip, executive chef, Taj The Trees, Mumbai.
In the realm of culinary innovation, mushrooms stand out as a game-changer. With their incredible adaptability, contributing to eco-friendly agriculture, underscoring their importance beyond the plate. “As we navigate the culinary landscape of 2024, their nutrient density and potential in regenerative farming will be in the spotlight. It is not just a trend; it's a culinary evolution with mushrooms at the forefront, adding depth to flavours and sustainability to our culinary narrative,” concludes Chef Jerson Fernandes, director of culinary, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach.