First, it was kale. Then, it was cauliflower. Now, the mushroom—yes, the most divisive item in the produce section—is the trendiest vegetable (er, fungi) of our era. Their rise from neglected-yet-obligatory salad bar ingredient to grocery store darling may seem like a surprise (or, for you shroom haters out there, entirely unwarranted), but even The New York Times predicted that mushrooms would be 2022’s ingredient of the year. There were plenty of signs that this day would come, and if you ask us, we think it’s about time mushrooms had their moment in the spotlight.
AS WE PRIORITIZE PLANT-BASED EATING, MUSHROOMS GET A FAIR CHANCE
Whether you were in your college dining hall or at your neighbor’s cookout, mushrooms (particularly Portobellos) were typically seen as the sad meal option for the one rogue vegetarian at the dinner table in the early aughts. Now, with plant-based eating at the forefront of our collective appetite, there are tons of easily accessible types of mushrooms to explore at the supermarket, and they’re being cooked more creatively and enticingly than ever before.
Now that foodies have opened the fungi-lined floodgates with creative recipes (which some vegans and vegetarians have been hip to for years, BTW) and consumers have veggies top of mind, shoppers are venturing to corners of the produce section that they didn’t dare visit before. That gave the lowly mushroom a fair shake, and it’s proven to be versatile and delicious enough to win over even the staunchest carnivores.
ADAPTOGEN TRENDS MAKE WAY FOR MUSHROOMS IN THE WELLNESS SPACE
On the heels of a pandemic, it’s no surprise that people are thinking more about health and immunity than ever before—and mushrooms are discreetly leading the charge. If you didn’t start eating them because of a viral recipe, odds are you did for their wellness benefits. Mushrooms have been used medicinally for generations in the East, largely for their immunity- and energy- boosting perks, but now, they’re having a lasting moment in the West. Whole Foods Market predicted that wellbeing would be of peak importance to shoppers in 2021, particularly health-conscious products like mushroom broth and mushroom jerky.
So what are the benefits of eating mushrooms, anyway? They’re part of the adaptogen family, a buzzword that’s been basically everywhere since 2020. Adaptogens are a group of plants, herbs and roots that help your body adapt to stress and ailments over time with routine use. We’ve tried them in everything from cereal to sparkling water, and many of the most popular items champion mushrooms. Take MUD\WTR, a coffee substitute that’s made with reishi and turkey tail to improve mood and immunity, and Four Sigmatic, a coffee blend made with lion’s mane, which is purported to inspire mental clarity. Clevr—a line of adaptogenic latte blends adored by Meghan Markle and Oprah—is the go-to for tea lovers, while Renude’s Chagaccinos, made with wild-foraged chaga mushrooms, are the top choice for mocha fanatics. Even non-alcoholic cocktails are still going strong since their summer 2021 heyday, many of them enhanced with adaptogens and mushrooms.
These products allow people who can’t get down with the texture of raw or cooked mushrooms to reap their benefits, since they’re typically powdered and undetectable. (If you don’t have a specific wellness product in mind, you can also buy a general powdered mushroom blend or supplement tablet to add to things like smoothies, spreads and soups.)
THERE’S BASICALLY NOTHING MUSHROOMS CAN’T DO
Mushrooms are so versatile and multifaceted that their influence seeps far beyond the kitchen, especially as businesses continue to try to meet public demand for sustainability. Mushroom fibers are becoming more and more common as a compostable, affordable packaging material. They have also been added to countless beauty and skincare products, as their antioxidant content is said to improve moisture retention, shrink pores and boost glow.
Mushroom leather made a huge splash in sustainable fashion this year as well, with lululemon, Adidas, Stella McCartney and even Hermès getting in on the trend. Chalk it up to TikTok-inspired Cottagecore, but mushrooms have become a bonafide décor aesthetic (or as the kids say, a ~vibe~) to boot: Think toadstool string lights, throw pillows and fairy garden bathroom renos. And need we mention microdosing?
Like it or not, mushroom haters, they’re here to stay. And there’s no better time to convert yourself than right now.