Being healthy is an incomparable life experience, and the way we eat plays a huge role. We all want great health, but for many people, it seems complicated. Our busy lives, the number of diets, and conflicting messages about what we should eat can be overwhelming. Ayurveda offers us a holistic, intuitive, easy approach to eating. Since it’s been in use for at least 5,000 years, we can rest assured that it’s safe and effective.
Ayurveda is about living in balance, within our bodies and in relation to the world around us. Understanding our body’s unique constitution, or dosha, and being mindful of the seasons, is key. The change of seasons affects the earth, its soil, and the microbes in the soil. These changes affect our bodies as well.
There are three seasons in Ayurveda: winter, spring and summer. What we call fall is understood as an important transitional time during which our bodies prepare for the impending cold of winter. Depending on where you are, it might still be quite hot, or there might be a distinctive chill in the air. During this time, Ayurveda recommends transitioning from summer, or pitta, foods to winter, or vata foods, in order to support the body during the seasonal change. One food that I love eating this time of year is mushrooms.
Mushrooms are fascinating and beguiling. They can appear overnight, repair soil by removing toxins, and also happen to make up the largest living organism (2,200 acres in Oregon). They’re nutrient dense. Even the common button mushroom is 1/3 protein, and they have the most vitamin D of any nonmeat food. Which brings me to why they’re great to eat in the fall. We rely on the sun to meet our daily requirement of vitamin D. This important antioxidant, which research has shown acts like a hormone, is stored in our body fat. As the hours of daylight diminish during the approach of winter, eating mushrooms is a great way to stock up on vitamin D.
Mushrooms come in an array of shapes, flavors and textures. There are thousands of varieties, but only twenty-five are consumed by humans. Mushrooms have a dense cell wall and should be cooked thoroughly in order for the body to assimilate their nutrients (except for truffles, which are best eaten raw).
I usually buy the most interesting, freshest mushrooms I can find. I use them in a variety of ways: soups, omelets, pizzas, duxelles, salads…there are so many ways! I’m sharing one of my favorites here, sautéed and placed atop toast.
This recipe is simple, rich in flavor, and versatile. Feel free to experiment with different types of mushrooms; try serving on small pieces of toast for an appetizer, wrap them in a crepe, or add a fried or poached egg on top for a more substantial meal.
A few notes before starting: Ghee is one of the best fats to cook with as it remains stable when heated, as opposed to many other oils that turn rancid. I particularly like ghee in this recipe as it has a beautiful nutty flavor that works really well with the other ingredients. However, if you don’t have ghee you can also use butter or olive oil. Also, in order to brown the mushrooms and toast the nuts, don’t overcrowd the pan or else you’ll end up steaming instead of browning, and the flavors will be subdued.
Photo by Shiraz Leyva
Mixed Mushrooms on Toast
Ghee (or butter or olive oil)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
12 ounces mixed shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
¼ cup almonds, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground coriander seeds
Black pepper, freshly ground
Flat leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish
Toasted bread (I made an easy loaf with einkorn flour)
- In a large frying pan, heat ghee. When hot, add shallots and a little salt. Cook until shallots begin to soften.
- Add mushrooms and cook until softened.
- Add almonds, coriander and pepper.
- After the mushrooms have browned, add a little more ghee, and additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Place on toasted bread and top with parsley.
Cover Photo Credit: Shiraz Leyva