Can you eat mushrooms raw? Isn't agaritine toxic? Though raw mushrooms can be dangerous, it depends on the variety. Here's what to remember.
Many people enjoy mushrooms in their raw form for their distinctive, unaltered flavors. However, concerns about raw consumption linger, and one element at the center of the debate is agaritine — a naturally occurring compound found in some types of mushrooms. How does agaritine tie into mushroom safety? And what does this mean for your uncooked salad topping or sushi fillings?
We’ll give you a clear understanding of what you’re putting on your plate. Read on for a look into the world of fungi and nutrition as we answer the question, “Can you eat mushrooms raw?”
The Myth About White Button Mushrooms
In the umami-filled forest of edible mushrooms, there are a handful of varieties that some people hesitate to enjoy raw. Take the humble white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), for instance. This ubiquitous mushroom naturally harbors a compound known as agaritine, a potential carcinogen some animal studies have linked to cancer.
It’s widely believed that this chemical disappears when subjected to high heat, leading many to think that mushrooms should be well-cooked before consumption. But is this fact or just culinary folklore?
To date, there is no definitive evidence that agaritine ingested from eating mushrooms poses a toxicological risk to healthy people. According to one study, someone who regularly consumes white button mushrooms may only increase their cancer risk by an extra two cases per 100,000 lifetimes.
Another 2002 study found that the agaritine content in mushrooms also dwindles when subjected to drying, storage or refrigeration. What does this mean for your health? Can you eat mushrooms raw or not? If you’re dealing with fresh-from-the-forest fungi, giving them a good cook might be a prudent move. However, those store-bought mushrooms may not pose as much of a risk when enjoyed raw.
Can You Eat Other Mushrooms Raw?
When it comes to the wider universe of edible mushrooms, most varieties are perfectly safe to consume raw. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean raw is always the tastiest route to take. For instance, oyster and reishi mushrooms have a tough texture that is ideally suited to a bit of heat to soften and tenderize them.
In essence, the choice between raw and cooked mushrooms often boils down to personal preference. Sometimes, a vegetable’s full flavor potential is best unlocked when it’s cooked, whether in homemade mushroom soup, mushroom risotto or in our delicious mushroom jerky recipe. Or, whip up some mushroom desserts to impress your friends. Don’t hesitate to experiment with all of the many enjoyable variations available.
Check out our popular mushroom articles for more fascinating fungi facts:
- Plastic-Eating Mushrooms: They’re Real (& Some Are Edible)
- Edible or Poisonous? 9 Fascinating Types of Lawn Mushrooms
- Mushroom Mycelium: 7 Sustainable Superpowers
Can You Eat Mushrooms Raw? Key Takeaways
Navigating the world of edible mushrooms can be as intriguing as it is rewarding. While some people prefer to eat varieties like the white button mushroom cooked due to compounds like agaritine, most mushrooms can be eaten raw. But remember, ‘safe’ doesn’t always mean ‘tasty.’ Cooking can transform the flavor and texture of many mushrooms, making them much more fun to eat.
In the end, the choice is yours. We encourage you to try different preparations and find what you like best. And remember: if you want to eat raw mushrooms, double-check the variety to ensure they’re edible.
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