Welcome back to my healing kitchen. This little beauty was an experiment and turned out so fab I had to share. It was one of those ‘use whatever’s in the fridge’ kind of days and there was a head of cauliflower, some spring onions and carrots and that got me feeling rather oriental and wanting to make something with a touch of Asia and spice. It ended up being the most deliciously savoury, golden, mushroomy patties and they were a cinch to make. So roll your sleeves up, get the food processor ready, I’ll tell you all about Shiitake, what a wonder-fungus it is for your immune system, and how to make these yummy Shiitake Immunity Fritters…
Mushrooms are celebrated for being a low-calorie, high protein food rich in vitamins B and D and for their delicious taste, however there’s so much more to the edible species of the Fungi Kingdom. Mushrooms contain a complex and often novel collection of therapeutic chemicals and many (like the mycorrhizal fungi) are essential for helping some plant species absorb nitrogen from their soils to facilitate photosynthesis. Many fungal networks also act as communication pathways for forest trees. Some, like Shiitake, have earned reputations as medicinal foods in the East and feature in everything from congee and dumplings to vegetarian ‘bao’ (warm, soft, white bread) buns. So delicious!
Their use by humans dates back to 3000 BCE. Around 450 B.C in ancient Greece, Hippocrates write about the anti-inflammatory actions of the Amadou mushroom (Fomes fomentarius) and in Chinese medicine texts dating to the 5th century A.D, the alchemist Tao Hongjing wrote about numerous medicine mushrooms including the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidumi), also called the ‘Elixir of Immortality’. The Shiitake mushroom has a celebrated history as well. Historically more popular in Japan and possessing a range of chemicals that may be useful in cancer (as an anti-tumour agent) as well as in immunological conditions.
Photo: Youngki Son
Mushrooms like shiitake are emerging as a wave of new medicines to assist in cancer. In Australia, around 400 new cases of cancer are diagnosed daily. We need safer and less invasive treatments to treat the myriad of degenerative conditions that we’re faced with today. The research is interesting too, one group for example, looking at growing shiitake mushrooms over beds of the tonic herb Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) which makes sense because both combine well in traditional Chinese medicine cancer treatments. So how can we creatively harness the synergistic combination of two great medicinal plants to product something greater than the sum of its parts? Grow them in unison! Let’s talk about shiitake….
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) – a potent immune stimulant
Shiitake mushrooms in the wild. Photo: Ezonokuma (2013)
Shiitake is the second most commercially cultivated mushroom species in the world, second to your standard white and brown varieties (Agaricus bisphorus) e.g button mushrooms. This is because its growing conditions are less demanding than other species.
In terms of its chemical profile, it’s rich in tocopherols, polyunsaturated fatty acids and compares well with other mushrooms in terms of its macronutrient profile (i.e fats, carbohydrates and protein content). If you’re wanting a source of healthy, natural, vegan fats, then Shiitake’s the best choice for you. Research comparing popular edible mushrooms reveals shiitake is much richer in protein and fats than say, your white button mushrooms. They also contain magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron and zinc.
We co-evolved with mushrooms like shiitake. According to some researchers, our response to mushrooms as medicines may be more powerful and diverse than our responses to medicinal plants. Over time we developed receptors that bind to compounds in mushrooms called beta-glucans. On binding, our immune system is stimulated. Beta glucans are a type of fibrous polysaccharide and one of the best known class of glucans in shiitake are the lentinans, which are powerful anti-cancer agents.
Research on shiitake polysaccharides show it’s useful in breast, gastric and prostate cancers. Shiitake has immunomodulatory effects. Other medicinal actions of shiitake are:
- Supports adaptive (specialized) immunity
- Anti-proliferative (helping preventing rapid cancer cell production)
- Pro-apoptotic to cancer cells (which means, reducing their life span or viability)
These fritter are sooo delicious with a side of sweet chilli sauce for dipping!
Shiitake & Covid-19
Let me preface this bit by stating that I recommend shiitake as a medicinal food that can improve your health overall, and can support a modulated and tempered immune response. I’m not suggesting it’s a cure for Covid-19, and in the diet, it’s not like you’re getting a therapeutic dose. The emerging evidence is promising though, so I’ve included some highlights here.
Those beta-glucans we discussed earlier reduce a number of inflammatory chemicals that get sparked into action with viral infections like Covid-19. In Covid-19, viral cells rapidly replicate, triggering uncontrolled infiltration of inflammatory cells and cytokines in the lungs leading to a ‘cytokine storm’. The intensity of this reaction obviously varies between individuals, and in some may cause acute lung injury and respiratory distress. Researchers have looked at medicines like shiitake with great interest because shiitake reduces the expression of some of the inflammatory cells associated with Covid-19, namely interleukin-6, interleukin-1 beta, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interkeukin-8 and even interleukin-2 (which is over-expressed in auto immune disease).
Priming our immune systems with vitamins C, D and zinc can help us fortify our boundaries to a degree, but what’s even more important in my opinion is supplementing with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods and medicines to promote cardiovascular health and healing should infection with Covid-19 occur.
Another thought here on creating better health in this pandemic….a diet high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars is associated with increased risk of the metabolic diseases that seem to worsen Covid-19 outcomes. Conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity. On the one hand, this is because of the inflammatory nature of Covid-19 and its tendency to produce long term inflammation and cardio-metabolic damage, while on the other hand these conditions impair our adaptive immunity which is so important in fighting specific pathogens. Our first-line defence (i.e our innate immune response) also becomes highly stimulated which creates a high inflammatory load with excessive mucous secretions and pro-inflammatory cytokine release.
Foods like shiitake are low in sugars, high in protein and unsaturated fats, and also support our immune systems while alleviating a cytokine storm.
Now let’s get on to those fritters…I used just 1 tsp (equiv 2g) of shiitake powder here, but you could use up to 1 Tbsp (equiv 9.5g). And for my 11 year old, I didn’t dress his with a slice of shiitake because … you know how kids are! He gobbled it up happily.
Shiitake Immunity Fritters
- 1 can Organic Chickpeas
- 2 cups Cauliflower fresh, finely chopped
- 1 cup Breadcrumbs preferably gluten-free
- 1 pc Spring Onion chopped
- 1 cup Rocquette leaves chopped
- 1/2 cup Dandelion leaves fresh, roughly chopped
- 1 pc Carrot grated
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 Egg beaten
- 1 tsp Shiitake powder equiv 2g
- 5 slices Shiitake mushrooms fresh, or dried is also ok. If dried, leave to soak in hot water for 15 minutes before using.
- 1/4 cup Sunflower oil
- 1/2 tsp Curry powder
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Plain flour to coat
- Put the chickpeas and cauliflower into a food processor and process until roughly smooth. Place into a large mixing bowl.
- Combine the puree with the breadcrumbs, spring onions, greens, carrot, cheese, egg, shiitake powder and spices. Add salt and pepper if desired. Mix together and roll into patties.
- Coat each patty with flour and place a shiitake slice on top. Then fry in oil in a large pan until golden. Serve with sweet chilli sauce,
Combine all ingredients and rolll into patties. I added Dandelion leaves last.
All ready to fry
Serve with sweet chilli sauce
If you make these fritters, or adapt them to create your own amazing version, I’d love to hear from you! Pop a comment below. What I love about this recipe is it’s pretty fool-proof, and suits an anti-inflammatory diet (which is what I always recommend in clinic). Savour every delicious bite.
Hey there! Welcome to my world of totally natural and powerful healing medicines. Medicines from nature. Medicine from Source. I’m a naturopath and herbalist with extensive clinical experience working with a range of health conditions including hormonal, metabolic, mental health, sleep and more.
I’ve brought together years of clinical and teaching experience, academic skill and curiosity to bring you this blog. I hope you enjoy it! If you do, leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!
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