Foraging is one of my favourite ways to connect with nature; not only is it a great excuse for a long meditative walk in the woods, it also has added culinary & medicinal benefits. In Ontario, fall is the best season to forage for wild mushrooms. Delicious varieties like my favourite chanterelles are plentiful, and the best way to get them is to search for them yourself. It’s a wonderful excuse for a mindful (mushroom hunting takes concentration) walk in the forest before winter settles in.
If you’re new to foraging for wild mushrooms going out with an expert is essential. While I learned extensively about the medicinal properties of mushrooms in Naturopathic medical school and read a ton of books on identification the most valuable lessons in foraging came from spending time in the woods with people who really knew their stuff. Nature is one tricky lady, and there are plenty of delicious edible mushrooms that actually have poisonous look a-likes. If you plan out heading into the woods to find your own mushroom feast this identification book is my go-to resource, but like I said … it’s best to learn how to forage firsthand from experienced mushroom hunters, people who know the area and have already done all the testing / experimenting for you. I also highly recommend joining your local mycological society. I’m personally a member of the Toronto Mycological Society and have found the meet-ups + meetings to be extremely useful for identifying both culinary mushrooms and poisonous lookalikes specific to my ‘hunting grounds’.
Now the real reason we’re all here .. the soup! This nourishing mushroom + bone-broth based soup is the ultimate fall comfort food. Not only is it warming, satisfying and delicious, it also has incredible immune stimulating and healing properties. Mushrooms, specifically the shiitakes found in this recipe, contain compounds called beta-glucans; naturally occurring polysaccharides found in the cell wall of certain fungi. These polysaccharides stimulate immune cells called macrophages, cytokines and natural killer cells to improve you body’s anti-body response and increase your natural immune surveillance. Beta-glucan containing mushrooms also increase Th1 immune system activity: this is the part of your immune system responsible for defending your body from pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) which are plentiful in our environment at this time of year.
Mushrooms must be cooked at high temperatures to break up the hard compound called chitin in a mushroom’s cell well in order to release these immune boosting-polysaccharides which is why soup is one of my favourite ways to prepare medicinal mushrooms. I use bone broth in this recipe to further boost the healing properties of this soup and to improve gut health. I bet you didn’t know that the majority of your immune cells are actually located in your digestive system. Mushrooms act as a pre-biotic to feed the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system while bone broth helps to maintain gut integrity and is high in the nutrient zinc which further supports immunity.
Medicinal Mushroom Soup
This nourishing mushroom + bone-broth based soup is the ultimate fall comfort food. Not only is it warming, satisfying and delicious, it also has incredible immune stimulating and healing properties.
- 1 large white onion
- 1 head of garlic (this may seem like a lot but it really mellows out when roasted + garlic is wonderful for your immune system).
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 10 oz shitake mushrooms
- 10 oz organic button mushrooms
- 10 oz wild chanterelles or whatever mushroom looks interesting from your local farmers market or grocery
- 1 can coconut milk
- 4 cups bone broth or chicken stock
- 2 tbs dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- salt + pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roughly chop the onion and remove garlic cloves from their peel. Toss the garlic and onion with salt and pepper, and 1 tbs of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until onion and garlic are cooked through and beginning to brown. Remove roasted onion and garlic from the oven and set a side. Meanwhile, roughly chop the mushrooms and add to a large dutch oven or soup pot along with olive oil, salt and pepper and thyme leaves. Cook until mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown up - remove a small portion of crispy mushrooms to serve on top of your soup. Add the roasted garlic and onion and cook for 5 - 10 minutes, mixing well so all of the ingredients are well combined. Add the coconut milk and bone broth and cook for 10 minutes until everything in night and hot. Use an immersion blender to break up the soup (it's best when a little chunky, no need to full puree) and serve topped with coconut yogurt, more dried thyme and some additional reserved crispy mushrooms.