As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I tend to have a Pavlovian response to conversations about mushrooms: I close my eyes and dream of a sizzling pan filled with butter, garlic, and fresh chanterelles. I can smell the complex aromas and the extra layer of buttery goodness from using chardonnay to deglaze the pan. And I can almost taste the silky sauce atop a bed of fresh pasta. However, for many herbalists, thoughts of mushrooms conjure images of a well-stocked home apothecary.
And that’s the beauty of our fungi friends: They are wonderful in the kitchen as well as in the medicine cabinet. From shiitake and reishi to chaga and maitake, there are many wonderful mushrooms we could focus on. But after taking stock of my own medicine cabinet, I realized that I’m drawn to working with reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). The reishi mushroom, also called lingzhi, has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with references found in the oldest recorded botanical monograph. Reishi is considered one of the most sacred TCM herbs, earning it fantastical names like “the Mushroom of Immortality.” This wonderful mushroom was once so rare that it was reserved as a tonic only for emperors. Thanks to modern cultivation, we can enjoy its healthful properties without harming wild reishi. Reishi mushrooms can help support immune health* and can be enjoyed several ways.
Double Extraction Reishi Tincture
Making a double-extraction tincture may sound complex or fancy, but it’s a very simple process. Mushroom tinctures are commonly double extractions because mushrooms contain some constituents that are water soluble, called beta-glucans, and some that are alcohol soluble, called triterpenes. The beauty of double extraction is that you pull out both constituents while creating a shelf-stable tincture.
Makes 16 ounces
4-6 organic reishi slices
80-proof or higher organic alcohol (I use vodka)
64 ounces water
Break reishi slices into pieces that can be layered in a pint jar. Fill jar halfway with reishi slices and top with alcohol. Make sure the alcohol completely covers the mushrooms, leaving a half-inch space at the top of the jar. I recommend using a plastic lid. If using a metal lid, place parchment paper under the lid to prevent corrosion. Shake daily for a month. After a month, strain mushroom-infused alcohol into another jar and set aside.
Next, make a water extract by bringing half a gallon of water to a simmer in a stockpot. Add the mushrooms from the alcohol extract to the simmering water. Gently simmer the mushrooms for about two hours, until the water has reduced to approximately 8 ounces. Let it cool. Strain and compost the mushrooms, reserving the mushroom-infused water. Combine the water extract with the alcohol extract. Label and store away from light and heat.
This tincture makes a wonderful handcrafted gift for friends and family when packaged in 1- or 2-ounce dropper bottles.
Spiced Reishi Hot Chocolate Recipe
A double-extraction tincture is a wonderful way to experience the healthful properties of reishi, but I also love to create tasty tonics. The recent explosion in popularity of drinking mushrooms in hot chocolate and coffee inspired this piquant blend. I love putting a pot of it on the stove on a slow and drizzly weekend morning to help me ease into the day.
Makestwo large mugs
2 ounces organic whole cacao beans
5 organic whole bird’s-eye chilies
4 organic sweet cinnamon sticks
2 organic whole star anise pods
Large tea ball infuser, 4-inch tea net, or cheesecloth
4 cups milk or your favorite alternative “mylk”
6 organic reishi slices
1/2 teaspoon organic nutmeg powder
1 teaspoon organic vanilla powder
Break cacao beans in half and rub between your palms to create cacao nibs and hulls. Add cacao nibs and hulls, chilies, cinnamon sticks, and star anise to tea infuser or cheesecloth bundle. Add milk, reishi slices, nutmeg powder, and vanilla powder to a medium pot with the tea infuser. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let gently simmer for at least 30 minutes. Strain tea infuser and remove reishi slices. Ladle into your favorite mug and serve immediately.
Tonic Mushroom Soup With Root Vegetables
This hearty and delicious soup comes from the talented herbalist Juliet Blankespoor. She is the founder of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, whose blog is full of herbal inspiration. This soup will please most palettes and easily lends itself to personalization with additions of hot sauce, infused herbal salts, or gomasio.
Makes about one gallon
1/2 ounce organic dried shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 ounce organic dried maitake mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 slice organic reishi mushroom
5-7 slices organic astragalus root
1/2 ounce organic nori flakes
1 medium organic onion
1 large organic sweet potato
1 medium organic white potato
3 organic celery stalks
3 medium organic carrots
3 organic garlic cloves
3 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon organic dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon organic dried marjoram
1 teaspoon organic dried thyme
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 quarts loosely packed organic seasonal cooking greens, such as kale, collards, spinach, nettles, or lamb’s quarters (about 4 ounces by weight)
Coarsely ground organic black pepper, to taste
Organic tamari and sea salt or miso, to taste
1 tablespoon organic balsamic vinegar
Organic parsley and scallions to garnish
Soak the mushrooms, astragalus, and nori in 4 cups of water overnight, stored in the refrigerator. The next day, add the infused water, mushrooms, and nori into a large pot with an additional 5 1/2 cups of water. Cover and simmer for one hour.
Chop the onion, sweet potato, potato, celery, and carrots into one-inch pieces. Set aside. Mince the garlic and set aside. Warm the olive oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes until softened, then add the chopped vegetables, except the garlic, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, continuously stirring.
After the mushrooms and nori have simmered for one hour, add the sautéed vegetables, dried herbs, and vegetable broth to the mushroom-seaweed pot. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the root vegetables are soft. Add the cooking greens and cook for a few minutes until tender, but still green.
Turn off the heat and add pepper, salt, and tamari or miso to taste, along with the minced garlic and balsamic vinegar. Remove the astragalus and reishi slices. Garnish with fresh parsley and scallions.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.
Mushrooms, herbs, and spices are available at the Mountain Rose Herbs Mercantile at 152 W 5th Ave. in Eugene or online at www.mountainroseherbs.com