Burgers, tacos, meatballs, and lasagna are just some of my frequent menu choices. And as produce has gravitated more and more toward the center of the plate in recent years, some of my favorite dishes have been taking it up a healthy notch or two, thanks to the versatile mushroom and the coveted trend to blend.
So, what is this new cooking method making waves in both retail and foodservice initiatives? Blending takes well-known dishes, like the iconic American classic—the burger—and tweaks it by blending finely chopped, umami-rich mushrooms into your choice of ground meat, whether it is beef, turkey, chicken, pork, or even tofu. This step adds an extra serving of vegetables, and enhances the flavor and health impact of the dish. Since mushrooms have a similar texture to meat and can take on the flavor properties of any ingredient, blending maximizes the eating experience without sacrificing what we love about our favorite dishes.
With Americans eating, on average, three burgers a week and roughly 50 billion a year, many are wondering if, sustainably, we can keep this up. One way of ensuring burgers can be enjoyed for generations to come is with this popular flavor trend.
Despite their fungi classification, mushrooms have many of the nutritional attributes of produce, meat, beans, and grains; that is to say, they are incredibly healthy. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, mushrooms are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in both calories and sodium.
One of the innovative programs taking this health-forward initiative to the next level is the Mushroom Council’s The Blend campaign, which highlights blending’s many opportunities and also brings resources to the retail and foodservice communities. Many others have taken on this vision as well, so keep your eyes peeled for new twists on The Blend.
Blending is not only for the benefit of great flavor and healthier eating options, but also addresses challenges like food deserts and hunger. Since mushrooms bulk up the volume of any meat recipe and extend portion size, more mouths can be fed and meat consumption can be minimized without removing it from our diets entirely. This also replaces the brunt of the meat industry’s carbon footprint and pollution with mushrooms’ eco-friendly growing process.
Mushrooms are one of the most earth-friendly, renewable crops available, can grow in limited spaces—one million pounds per acre—and are ready to harvest in just a matter of days, conserving soil and netting high yields. Compared to the 660 gallons of water required to produce one hamburger, a pound of mushrooms only needs 1.8 gallons of water.
Of course, ground beef isn’t the only source of protein that mushrooms, or any vegetable, can be blended into, and burgers aren’t the only culinary classic blending can improve. Tacos, meatloaf, meatballs, casseroles, scrambled eggs, and sauces are other popular dishes that blending has taken over. Blend chopped mushrooms, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, or even apples with chicken, pork, veal, lamb, seafood, or tofu for equally delicious and hearty results.
I, for one, think there’s nothing better than a burger and fries, and blending not only revitalizes a classic American dish, but also ensures my grandchildren’s grandchildren can enjoy it, too.
Sources: James Beard Foundation, Blenditarian, Mushroom Council