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Spring and autumn are the ideal seasons for harvesting mushrooms–those fun little fungi that have marvelous healing benefits for the body. It seems that no one knows for sure how many varieties of mushrooms exist in nature. Upwards of 10,000 varieties grow in North America alone, and it’s estimated that more that 60-75% of those are edible. Whatever the real number, mushrooms exist in abundance, and they dry quickly and well for storage. Likely mushrooms have saved many a family during the harsh months of winter, when dried mushrooms could be added the stew pot to make a simple, nourishing meal. Nearly every ancient culture have treasured mushrooms for longevity, strength and for treating a number of illnesses and making them deserving of having a place as staple in the diet.
I make this hot pot with seasonally foraged mushrooms. No, I’m not a forager myself, I go hunting through the local farmer’s market and coop and support another’s livelihood. In the spring, when morels are about, I make this with a lighter broth like chicken. When the cooler weather starts to creep into fall, then a slightly richer broth, maybe a mix of beef, chicken and mushroom appear. I make most of my broth stock from scratch, which, beside bones includes a chunk of kombu, leeks and some mushrooms–however, purchased broth works fine if you have neither the time or means.
If you choose to use the bonito flakes--In medium stock pot, add in bonito flakes and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out bonito flakes. I use a fine mesh strainer or large tea ball so I don't have to strain the whole pot. I'm cheating here and making a quick dashi. Remove from heat.
Start building the hot pot
In hot pot or stock pot add chicken, cabbage and tofu. Ladle in broth. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Layer in other ingredients
Uncover pot and begin layering in mushrooms. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. We want a low, slow simmer that doesn't boil the ingredients apart. Uncover and add in spinach or kale and sprouts, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or just until spinach is bright. Garnish with a dash of cayenne unless you can find shichimi --a Japanese pepper. Enjoy at the table with friends
Healing energetics: Treasured in many cultures for their healing and longevity properties, mushrooms are loaded with polysaccharides, which is effective in helping to fight cancers by strongly rallying the immune system. They build the Wei Qi, fight pathogens and many mushrooms also contain cytotoxic, antibacterial, antioxidant and antiviral properties.
All mushrooms are deeply nourishing and tonify Yin, Blood, Qi and Fluids. They warm the core and benefit the Spleen, Lungs and Kidneys. The broth in this recipe is additionally deeply nourishing, the sprouts provide protein.