Today, consumers are beginning to use one more guideline to determine how to spend their food dollars: sustainability. The public is increasingly curious about where and how their food is produced and what impact it has on the environment – and for good reason. The world’s population is rapidly expanding and it’s estimated there will be over 9 billion people on the planet by 2050.
A healthy diet should include food choices that respect future accessibility to nutritious food and overall global health. Over the past several years, the interest in plant-based foods has skyrocketed, and it’s not just from vegans and vegetarians. A new crop of consumers, dubbed Flexitarians, have emerged and are changing the way newer generations are eating.
From meatless meals to plant-centric plates, there are many ways to eat more sustainably without loss of flavor. Gone are the days of tasteless vegetarian offerings; instead, both professional chefs and home cooks are experimenting with adding more fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to traditional meat-centric dishes. One example is that of The Blend, a cooking technique that blends finely chopped mushrooms with ground meat. This is a culinary trend that appeals to health professionals and conservationists alike. It’s sustainable, nutritious and delicious, making it healthier on the plate and gentler on the planet.
If it seems like mushrooms are everywhere, it’s because they are. In addition to popular cooking techniques like The Blend, mushrooms are seemingly the star of almost every new food product from jerky and chips to tea and coffee. And it’s not just an ingredient in new products. In 2020, few produce items surpassed the popularity of mushrooms. Their taste, accessibility and health benefits have made them popular with Generations X, Y and Z as well as a top seller at grocery stores across the country.
So why is it that mushrooms are the poster child for sustainable nutrition? It starts on the farm. Mushrooms have a unique growing process unlike any other produce item where they require zero light, require merely 1.8 gallons of water and generate only .7 pounds of carbon dioxide per pound for production. In addition, the annual average yield of mushrooms is 7.1 pounds per square foot – meaning up to 1 million pounds of mushrooms can be produced on just one acre.
Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutrient attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. According to the USDA’s FoodData Central, one serving (5 medium/90g) of white, raw mushrooms contains 20 calories, 0g fat, 3g protein and is very low in sodium (0mg/<1% recommended daily value). Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and mushrooms are unique in that they are the only food in the produce aisle that contain vitamin D. Specifically, one serving of raw, UV-exposed, white (90g) and crimini (80g) mushrooms contains 23.6mcg (118% RDA) and 25.52mcg (128% RDA) of vitamin D, respectively.
For more sustainably delicious and nutritious recipes, like the Classic Blended Burger, visit MushroomCouncil.com.
Classic Blended burger
8 ounces white button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef • 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil • 4-6 buns
Add chopped mushrooms, ground beef and salt into a large bowl and mix until combined. Form into 4 large patties or 6 slider-size patties. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the burger patties approximately 4 minutes per side, or to your preferred level of doneness. Remove burger patties from heat and toast buns in the same skillet. Assemble burgers with your favorite toppings and condiments.
The Blend Hot Tip: For extra flavor, saute the chopped mushrooms first with 1 tablespoon olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Let briefly cool before blending with meat and forming into patties.