When asked – are mushrooms vegetables? – many people don’t know the answer as it can be a bit confusing.
Are Mushrooms Vegetables, Fungi, Meat or Fruit?
When it comes to the proper classification of mushrooms, many people immediately put them in the category of vegetables. Now, while mushrooms are often cooked with other vegetables and have some similar nutrients, mushrooms are more accurately classified as fungi. Even more specifically, mushrooms are the spore-bearing bodies that grow on certain fungal varieties.
The term vegetable is often used to include edible plant parts, but for culinary purposes, most people would consider mushrooms to be in the vegetable group. The fruit is an edible plant part, but it is the seed-bearing organ of a plant and develops from the enlarged ovary or flower. While mushrooms and fruits serve a similar purpose – distributing seeds/spores for further growth – they don’t belong to the same group.
The tricky classification is meat, as many people think of mushrooms as a viable meat replacement. In terms of texture and versatility in different meals, mushrooms do have similarities to meat, including dense protein reserves and key minerals, such as iron. The flavor profile of mushrooms, often described as umami, is also shared by certain types of meat, particularly beef. That being said, by definition, meat is an animal product, and fungi are not considered animals.
As you can see, mushrooms occupy a versatile and unique space within our diet, even if it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which classification it requires.