By Zoe Mendelson, 19, reporting from Chicago, on her favorite fungi
I get a huge range of reactions when I offer mushroom samples to people at the farmer's market. Admittedly, my mushrooms don't look or smell like the cute white buttons you'll typically see on grocery store shelves. For someone who's new to fungi, they can be intimidating. But if I can coax a curious patron into the magical mycelial world, they're thanking me and buying mushrooms and returning week after week to restock.
Mushrooms rank among the largest organisms in the world, and are medicinal to humans. They contain high levels of vitamin D and three B vitamins; they are rich in selenium and ergothioneine (antioxidants), potassium, and copper. Mushrooms even have the ability to shrink tumors! Oh, and they're fat-free. But besides the health benefits, they're also fun and easy to eat. Yes, for the record, you can eat them raw. Or mushrooms simply sautéed with a little oil and salt yield exciting new flavors and textures. I'll challenge anyone to discern in taste between a scallop and a sautéed king oyster mushroom. Pompoms -- little yellow fuzzy balls that you'll want to outfit with a pair of googly eyes -- taste like lobster.
And then there are their unique wiles. I can't say it's an addiction but it's something like loving chocolate. Yellow oysters (pictured) look like inspiration from Avatar, and though they won't take you on mental space trips like other mushroom varieties, they will win over your taste buds in a romantic way.