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At chickenmushrooms.com, we always try to feed your brain with information.   Hopefully this post will feed your brain with information that will inspire you to feed your brain at home, literally.

Lions Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is a really cool looking mushroom. For one, it’s covered in what are called in myco-terms “teeth,” although in reality they more closely resemble tapered spagetti.  These teeth contain the hymenium, the layer of cells reponsible for forming spores, the same way that gills work in agaricales and pores work in polypores.  It’s almost pure white and can grow into gargantuan blobs, making it fairly easy to spot (although not always so easy to reach!).  In our area I usually find lions mane on dead or dying beech and inside the hollow of a maple.

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of foods that resemble the body parts they’re good for.  Ginger for stomach, avocado for ovaries, tomatoes for heart.  Some are a bit of a stretch if you ask me.

Not so for the delicious lions mane mushroom.  The inside of the lions mane hearkens strikingly to the ventricles (fluid cavities) as well as the pattern of white and gray matter inside of our noggins.  On top of that, it’s covered in teeth that resemble the axons (neural tracts where electronic impulses are conducted) that the mushroom is particularly good for.  Step aside walnut!

Lions Mane mycelium on agar looks like a neuron!

Lions Mane mycelium on agar looks like a neuron!

white matter

white matter

When evaluating the efficacy of mycological compounds, there are several important distinctions to make.  The two most important are the source material (mushroom vs mycelium) and the manner of extraction (water vs alcohol).  Lions Mane is a good case study in these distinctions- the fruitbody (mushroom) itself contains compounds called hericenones whereas the mycelium produces similar compounds known as erinacenes.   Both can be extracted into alcohol.   It turns out the erinacenes have the greatest efficacy when it comes to increasing the level of NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) in the brain.  NGF serves a number of purposes in the brain, protecting it against various harms and increasing the production of axon-protecting myelin.  Myelin is the stuff that goes away when someone’s suffering from some of the effects of Lyme Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.  NGF also protects the brain from the effects of Alzheimer’s.  Good stuff.

Although the mushroom itself contains the lesser of these compounds and its volatile nature means that cooking it may very well deplete some of the effectiveness (remember, avoid eating all mushrooms raw), this doesn’t mean that eating cooked lions mane doesn’t do anything for your noodle.  Nagano et al. 2010 found that women who ate cooked lions mane were less depressed and more able to concentrate, suggesting that those hericenones were doing their thing.

My littlest nephew holding a medium sized lions mane

My littlest nephew holding a medium sized lions mane

Last week I had about 8 lbs of lions mane to play with so I decided to make crab cakes.  The texture of lions mane can be very crab-like and you can even draw a seafoody taste out of it by preparing it a certain way.

When I attended the Stamets Seminar last year, they prepared lions mane by tearing them up and cooking along with butter and spinach.  The butter and the addition of spinach brought out the seafoody flavor of the mushroom.  If you wanna play up the sweetness instead, I’d recommend cutting it into thick chunks and caramelizing in a pan using coconut oil.  Yum.

I wanted to make crab cakes that are not only good brain food, but good health food in general.  Hence Vegan, Gluten-Free Crab Cakes:  Don’t be scared because they’re healthy.  They’re actually really good.

YUM

YUM

Here’s the recipe as best I can remember.  I’m not one to measure.

Makes 12 crab cakes:

5 medium sized zucchinis

1/2 cup chia seeds (soaked in 1/2 cup water)

4 lbs. lions mane mushroom (shredded where shreddable, chopped everywhere else)

1/4 oz. dried porcini (reconstituted in water) (optional)

1 Squirt liquid aminos (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp vegan butter

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tsp old bay

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 sheets nori (toasted lightly)

4 cloves garlic

salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Lions Mane roasting down

Lions Mane roasting down

Mix 2 teaspoons of salt into shredded zucchini, let site for 20 minutes, then squeeze out all the liquid you can (you can use this liquid in place of water for hydrating chia but be mindful of saltiness).  Soak chia seeds in water.  Roast lions mane and vegan butter + olive oil   + a little salt in pan  at 350 until it loses all water and starts to brown.  Throw in minced garlic, porcini + liquid from porcini, liquid aminos, half the parsley, and shredded nori and allow to roast until the lions mane are deeply carmelized, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Mix the zucchini, chia seeds, mustard, remaining parsley, spices and roasted lion concoction mane together.  Form into balls and push down onto wax paper.  when you push them down, they will crack around the edges so reform them as tightly as possible into traditional crab cake shape.  Heat a large pan at medium heat, throw in the vegan butter and brown the cakes on each side for about 5 minutes, lid on.  Use your greatest chef skills when flipping and removing the cakes because they don’t have gluten and egg to hold them together!  Serve immediately or allow to cool, wrap in wax paper, bag em up and freeze them.

 

These crab cakes are so good on their own I wouldn’t even recommend a roll.  Just some nice tartar sauce or tangy garlic dijon mayo.  mmmmmmm.

After dining, go ahead and figure out the Unified Field theory, write the great American novel, and embarrass your friends at Scrabble.