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Olley’s fish experience: a sustainability success

Olley’s fish experience: a sustainability success

It has been a year since I launched the Southbank Sustainable Initiative and its very first partner – and in some respects, project – Olleys Fish Experience in Herne Hill, South London, has finally fitted the last part of the jigsaw to their Sustainability pledge. Owner Harry Niazi was initially approached by the London Aquarium after being featured in an Evening Standard article lazily named ‘London’s 5 Most Sustainable Fish and Chip shops’. In reality none of the featured restaurants were anything close to being sustainable, so Harry sought assistance from me, a previous volunteer at the London Aquarium, to help him understand the complexities of the subject, educate him and his team, and achieve the ultimate ambition of improving their sustainable offer to one of the UK’s finest.

Some major alterations had to be made to the menu, including the move from wild halibut to farmed, the removal altogether of swordfish, shifting from cheap mass-produced Bangladesh tiger prawns to wild MSC Spencer Gulf king prawns and a change from generic farmed salmon to an RSPCA freedom food-monitored Loch Duart option – and then a further move to organically-farmed salmon. Additionally, an in-depth analysis was needed of all the offered products which would allow staff at Olley’s to nurture their understanding of the subject so they could successfully relay information to the diners when questioned. Conveying correct information to the diner can be as important as the change in purchasing mentality.

The integrity of wholesale changes to the menu reflected in the buying patterns has to be presented accurately to the public and this must coupled with continued updates. We can now see on the Olley’s menu MSC cod and haddock, MSC Queen scallops from the Isle of Man and MSC King Scallops from Canada, MSC Cornish Sardines, MSC North Atlantic cold water prawns and much more. Olley’s have one of the most concise descriptive offers of seafood information available to the UK diner, which is updated regularly, taking into consideration changes in availability and sustainability ratings of all products. A year on, Olley’s Fish Experience have achieved the Sustainable Restaurant Association three-star rating, the highest accolade, have Marine Stewardship Council accreditation, were highly commended at the 2013 Sea Fish Authority’s Fish and Chip awards (‘good catch’ category) and have attained a 4.5/5 award from sustainable seafood rating organisation fish2fork, equalling the highest award given to any restaurant in the country.

All this is especially impressive considering the vast selection of seafood on offer at Olley’s. Many high profile restaurants championed by the industry as leaders in seafood sustainability have only few items of seafood, and on some occasions only one, on offer; Olley’s have over 20, which is as challenging as any menu in the UK. Harry and his team at Olley’s are a fabulous example of what can be achieved by a restaurant with determination and a vision and who are, most importantly, willing to learn through guidance and education.

Can Bumble Bee and Nestlé hook the world on fishless fish?

Put down that beet-juice burger. The next big wave in plant-based protein is fake fish.

Buoyed by the success of red-meat mimics from the likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, a growing number of companies is angling to capture their share of the early market for animal-free seafood.

Large companies including Bumble Bee, Nestlé, Tyson, General Mills and Thai Union are making various plays, whether by investing in upstarts or flexing their research and development muscles to formulate new products.

The startup space is buoyant with cash and targeting a blend of retail, direct-to-consumer and food service channels, playing with ingredients such as kelp, koji and mung beans. Plant-based and cultivated seafood companies raised $80 million in 2020, according to the nonprofit Good Food Institute (GFI), which counts 800 companies involved in the space. Overall, businesses creating all sorts of meat alternatives raised $3.1 billion last year, more than three times the level of 2019. Alternative meat, dairy and egg products make up more than half of that, at $2.1 billion.

Plant-based seafood only accounts for 1 percent of alt-meat sales, compared with 60 percent for beef, poultry and pork analogs, according to data from GFI and retail insights firm SPINS. Yet GFI has positioned the market for fake fish to become bigger, or at least more diverse, than those for beef and poultry alternatives.

The nonprofit has named the threatened collapse of fisheries and unmet demand for seafood alternatives as important factors. By 2030, it expects demand for seafood to be 30 percent higher than 2010 levels. Plus, the tens of thousands of edible creatures in the oceans offer a broader palette of flavors and textures to imitate compared with land mammals or fowl.

Plant-based seafoods are spawning in the freezers and aisles of mainstream stores. Gathered Foods' Good Catch "tuna" is in a number of outlets, including Publix and Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s plans to stock alt-seafood, too.

The pitch

Acceptance of plant-based proteins has grown quickly in recent years as consumer sentiment has been shifting away from meat. Unlike the early days of tofu and tempeh, today's alt-proteins are designed to please flexitarians and omnivores, not just to fill a gap for vegetarians or vegans.

Plus, the touted sustainability benefits to deriving seafood-like ingredients from plants include reducing the reliance on open-sea fishing and fish farming, not to mention sidestepping the labor abuses found in seafood supply chains.

Seafood stand-ins not only promise a low carbon footprint, but they also seek to serve people with dietary restrictions. For example, kelp-based "shrimp" is kosher and won't trigger a life-threatening shellfish allergy. If the sourcing is done carefully, fake fish also should be devoid of the mercury and microplastics that can stem from ocean plastic pollution.

Here in random order are several key companies making waves in alt-seafood:


Nestlé has the advantage of already employing 300 scientists, engineers and product developers spread across eight research and development centers. The food juggernaut's alt-seafood explorations are being made by Nestlé Research in Switzerland and in Germany and the United States under the leadership of CEO Mark Schneider, a vocal proponent of the sustainability potential of plant-based nutrition.

Nestlé often describes plant-based food as part of its DNA in 1886 founder Julius Maggi developed soups with a "meaty," plant-based seasoning. The company's Coffeemate non-dairy creamer, born in 1961, is complemented today by non-dairy almond, oat, coconut, soy and rice milk. Nestlé's Garden Gourmet veggie burgers are well established in supermarkets, as are its vegetable-based sausages, chicken nuggets and lunch meats. The company's sales of vegetarian and plant-based items grew by more than $222 million in 2019 and leaped by 40 percent in the first half of 2020.

"In general, there is a lot of dynamism and innovation in this sector, and that is a good thing," said Torsten Pohl, head of the Nestlé Product Technology Center in Singen, Germany, via email.

He credited Nestlé's scale, size and proprietary technologies with accelerating the development of plant-based, jarred tuna in a matter of nine months, leading to the release of the six-ingredient, pea-protein-centered "fish" last year in Switzerland. Nestlé scientists, chefs and technologists prototyped and tested the new products in retail outlets, producing early commercial batches in its R&D centers.

"We want to offer people the best plant-based meat alternatives in terms of taste, texture, flavor and nutrition," Pohl said. "To complement our internal capabilities, we also strategically collaborate with researchers, suppliers, startups and various other innovation partners."

Nestlé cites the sustainability benefits of reducing overfishing and protecting ocean biodiversity as motivators of these projects. Following its tuna substitute, the company plans to release imitation shellfish and other fish next.

New Wave Foods

Shellfish are the specialty of New Wave Foods, which Tyson Ventures, chicken giant Tyson's VC arm, backed in 2019. The startup completed a Series A $18 million funding round late last year.

The San Francisco-based startup is making mungbean and seaweed-based shrimp that’s supposed to have the "snap" and succulence of the real thing and can be dropped into any hot or cold shrimp recipe.

"2021 is the year of the shrimp," said Michelle Wolf, co-founder of New Wave Foods, which is doubling its staff of 15 people by the end of the year and moving its Connecticut R&D kitchen to New York. "And that's what we're really focused on is just blowing out our shrimp product over the next year and delivering that movement."

A main New Wave Foods ingredient is moisture-absorbent alginate, derived from brown kelp and used in biomedical applications including hydrogel for wounds. New Wave blends it with mungbeans. To recreate the colors and textures of shrimp, the team consulted with Brad Barnes, a certified master chef and director of consulting at the Culinary Institute of America. The product is kosher and doesn't trigger problems for people who can't eat soy or gluten either, according to New Wave.

In March, the company inked a deal with Dot Foods, one of the nation’s largest food distributors, aimed toward rolling out New Wave-branded shrimp on the menus of foodservice institutions and restaurants, which make up the vast majority of the market for shrimp. Wolf believes the disruption of the pandemic has caused consumers to embrace plant-based foods partly as a way to address climate change on a personal level. To reach young adult flexitarians, college campus dining is a special target for New Wave, in addition to corporate dining and independent chains that have weathered COVID well.

Market research in April by Fact.MR projected "shrimp" to be the most popular product in alternative seafood.

"We saw a huge opportunity with shrimp because it is by and far the most consumed seafood in the United States, but it is also the poster child for a lot of issues in our seafood supply chain," said Wolf, who moved to San Francisco from Pittsburgh following a master’s in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, seeking to join a plant-based meat startup. Instead, she co-founded her own venture.

Depending on who’s counting, about half of shrimp is farmed, which in Southeast Asia has been wiping out coast-protecting mangrove trees. Shrimp is responsible for four times as many greenhouse gas emissions as the same amount of steak by weight, according to a study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2017. (It described the carbon footprint of a steak and shrimp cocktail dinner as equivalent to driving from Los Angeles to New York City.)

Seaweed, on the other hand, which makes up New Wave’s shrimp-mimic, sequesters carbon and reduces ocean acidification. Wolf hopes that spurring demand for plant-derived shrimp will have upstream effects, such as boosting beneficial ocean-based agriculture while reducing demand for farmed shrimp.

"Defining success for me … it’s when I can sit down in a restaurant — which is going to be sooner rather than later — and order our product off the menu and text my family back in Pittsburgh and say, 'Hey, you know, go to so-and-so and get the shrimp,'" she said. "That's going to be the moment for me where like, wow, we’ve really done something here."

Prime Roots

The mission-driven, direct-to-consumer brand Prime Roots is seeking to open the hearts and minds of consumers while helping to reduce the market for animal-based products. "Bacon" was an early offering, and "lobster" ravioli is its latest. Its fermented "superprotein" koji is the key ingredient. Koji mold, the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, has been core to savory foods for millennia throughout Asia.

Koji can be tinkered with fairly easily to replicate the texture of muscle fibers of various creatures. Additional ingredients are added to bump up nutrition and finetune the mouthfeel. From Prime Roots' R&D kitchen in west Berkeley, California, the five-year-old company grows koji in a nutrient-rich broth in a process similar to brewing beer.

"This is not lab-grown meat we actually use ancient techniques to make modern foods," said Kimberlie Le, the company's co-founder and CEO. "I wouldn't have even thought to look at koji as a source of protein if I hadn't started to learn about fermentation when I was like 4 or 5 years old with my mom." Her mother, Chi Le, is a well-known chef who appeared on the show MasterChef Vietnam.

With a staff of 25, Prime Roots is small but Kimberlie Le believes its proprietary koji brewing can scale up fairly easily. Pound per pound of protein, its processes are far more resource-efficient than harvesting meat from animals, the company estimated.

"We really hope that people will support that and see that there's a better way of eating and making protein and that we're fundamentally rethinking our system," Le said. "We're really excited to be able to be there for our community online and really get to go from farm to table, essentially, which is something that's important, to connect people to their food and where it comes from."

Gathered Foods' Good Catch

Good Catch is becoming the most visible fish-free consumer brand in the frozen aisles, where its bags of shelf-stable "tuna" already appear. The company uses a "six-legume" blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans.

In May, its maker, central Ohio-based Gathered Foods, released a line of $6 frozen fish sticks to be sold in Safeway and other supermarkets, following an April Series B funding round of $26.4 million. Good Catch is in 5,000 U.S. and Canadian stores, and its plant-based tuna salad is bound for 200 Whole Foods prepared food counters.

The irreverent Gathered Foods co-founders, brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, have corporate roots at Whole Foods. The self-described "culinary ninjas" also launched the Wicked Healthy plant-based community, and Chad continues to lead plant-based developments as an executive at Tesco.

Gathered Foods has attracted funding from celebrities Woody Harrelson and Paris Hilton, and early in 2020 pulled in an investment from General Mills’ venture branch, 301 Inc, an early backer of Impossible Foods. 301 Inc's founder and managing director John Haugen told GreenBiz that seafood is "another compelling proposition that meets the needs of consumers today."

Among its other big-name supporters, Gathered Foods has a distribution partnership with tuna titan Bumble Bee.

Bumble Bee

Founded in 1899, Bumble Bee claims 28 percent of the market for shelf-stable seafood including tuna, salmon and sardines. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, a move industry observers blamed not just on a price-fixing scandal but on a lack of innovation. Taiwan-based seafood trader FCF now owns Bumble Bee.

At the same time, consumers had been turning away from canned tuna, especially the millennials and members of Generation Z, known to circle the fresh and chilled items that tend to ring the perimeter of a grocery store. Packaged tuna sales in general, lackluster for years, enjoyed a temporary lift during the early months of the pandemic.

Those events and trends sent Bumble Bee on a process of soul searching, which led to redefining its purpose as "feeding people’s lives through the power of the ocean." Beyond fish, the San Diego-based company is casting a wide net by considering ingredients derived from plants and algae, from fermentation and from cell-based or cultivated methods, too.

Bumble Bee points out that it's the first shelf-stable seafood name to support regenerative practices for the ocean, as well as the first to offer a tuna traceability tool to its customers and to use blockchain technology to trace its frozen seafood's origins.

"With all of that, it became very natural to start talking to a company like Good Catch," said Renee Junge, Bumble Bee's communications vice president. The tuna giant and the alt-food startup signed a distribution agreement in March 2020, the first relationship of its kind between a major national seafood brand and a plant-based one.

The two CEOs — Jan Tharp of Bumble Bee and Christine Mei of Gathered Foods — speak on a weekly basis. Bumble Bee brings its expertise in sales, orders, logistics and warehousing together with Good Catch's expertise in innovation and production. Through investing in systems and resources, the tuna maker gets a cut of Good Catch's sales. Bumble Bee describes this joint alignment as reflecting the companies' shared values of protecting the ocean via alternative food sources.

"That said, our two companies do have different histories, origin stories, business approaches and cultures," said Tharp, who also serves on Gathered Foods' board, via email. "There is a great deal that we can learn from Good Catch their entrepreneurial and culinary approaches are something we are trying to incorporate into our practices. On the other side, we have systems and processes that are tried and true, which can help Good Catch with efficiencies and scalability. These types of partnerships are not easy, but they are fruitful and essential."

Other alt-fish players

Alternative proteins are a big focus for the future of another tuna giant. Thai Union in March began selling its OMG Meat products in Thailand, including meat-free crab meat, fish nuggets and dim sum. The Chicken of the Sea seller is working on "shrimp" as well.

The tiny Van Cleve Seafood Co. in October began marketing crunchy coconut "shrimp" in Publix’s GreenWise grocery stores. From the Netherlands, Schouten is exploring alt-tuna with its wheat and soy-based TuNo, and it plans to follow with salmon-like and cod-like products. The private company has been producing plant-based proteins since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, lab-grown fish is taking off. Out of San Diego, startup Blue Nalu hopes to bring its cultured mahi-mahi to U.S. plates this year. It reeled in $60 million in debt financing in January. Its partnerships with larger companies include Nutreco, Griffith Foods, Pulmuone, Rich Products and Thai Union Group. Blue Nalu is building a demonstration kitchen with a microbrewery-style restaurant, reportedly able to grow analogs to red snapper, yellowtail amberjack and bluefin tuna.

What's next?

This is just a sampling of the organizations exploring the seafood-analog realm. It's possible that pioneers in alternative proteins, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, will break their silence with offerings in this area as well.

Jen Lamy, senior manager of GFI's Sustainable Seafood Initiative, is excited to see big-name companies getting involved here and hopes others will dive in. What's the business benefit?

"There's a lot to be gained from companies in this space that pertains also to the efficiency and the ease of the production system compared to relying on a supply of, for example, wild capture fish from the ocean," she said. "There are all of these reasons coming together at the same time that will, hopefully drive a lot of the companies into the space."

Business-to-business activities could accelerate innovations, she added. For instance, companies could open-source their technologies for seafood textures or flavor profiles, she noted. "There's not sort of one code that everyone is trying to crack," Lamy said. "Because there are so many differences between the companies, they're all using either certain ingredients or going for different products or going for different markets."

Consumers have been interested in supporting ocean sustainability for a long time, buying Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish or buying from local fishmongers, but the options for acting on those values haven't been clear in the past, Lamy said. Not only do plant-based options provide a clearer sustainability story, but the rise of sustainability labeling for them will help to boost consumer confidence.

An additional selling point for seafood stand-ins is their nutritional benefits, as chefs seek to right the wrongs of their predecessor, the low-protein, additive-packed crabstick, industrialized since the 1970s. (Its main ingredient is blended-up fish product called surimi, which has been used in Japan for about 800 years.)

A key challenge to winning over consumers is in delivering a seafood aroma that's not intensely fishy, Lamy noted. Among the early offerings she has tasted, the coconut "shrimp" from family-owned Van Cleve Seafood stood out.

"It was pretty impressive to me I honestly thought I was eating conventional shrimp when I took a bite of it," she said. "I'm hoping we'll see a lot of other companies really focused on taste above everything else, because that's what consumers need to experience before anything else."

Choosing the right fish

The fish is arguably the most important component of fish and chips, and according to Nick Miller of Millers Fish & Chips in Yorkshire, ‘It has to be haddock or cod. Haddock is slightly thicker in texture, also slightly sweeter.’

And he would know – Millers were crowned the UK’s Best Fish & Chip Shop at the National Fish & Chip Awards earlier this year.

Craig Maw from Kingfisher Fish & Chips in Devon has some alternative suggestions though.

He said: ‘There are so many choices of sustainable fish to choose from – for a delicious white meat why not try something different?’

The winner of last year’s Best Fish & Chip Shop, and one of the most sustainable chippies in the world, suggests trying hake fillets that weigh around 200g instead.

Health score

Health Scores are calculated on a 1-10 scale based on nutrient density and USDA recommendations for a healthy diet. A higher Health Score means healthier food. The value based on impact of more than 28 nutrients, here are the main ones:

Nutrients with positive impact

Fiber 0.57 2% DV
Protein 24.02 48% DV
Calcium 30.69mg 4% DV
Magnesium 39.63mg 11% DV
Potassium 472.33mg 13% DV
Iron 1.38mg 10% DV
Vitamin A 93.6mkg 12% DV
Vitamin C 8.87mg 11% DV

Nutrients with negative impact

Saturated Fat 1.06 5% DV
Carbs 99.08 38% DV
Sugars 17.14 19% DV
Cholesterol 42.53mg 14% DV
Sodium 1159.05mg 58% DV

So Good, It’ll Be Hard to Share. This sauce is purely addictive and can be made as spicy as you’d like. The barramundi is gently cooked in the oven and finishes cooking under the broiler to add extra depth of flavor to the spicy sauce. Serve with rice or noodles and your favorite green veggie for a quick and easy dinner that’s sure to become a favorite. Recipe, food styling & photography by Lindsey Johnson.

Welcome to Clopton Catch

Raised in Sicily, a culture of good food and quality produce runs through Andy's veins. This ethos of providing quality cuisine is the core spirit behind Clopton Catch - merging the Sicilian way with British fare. Although at its heart Clopton Catch is a fish and chip shop, its conception is about so much more than that. Built on a foundation of a love for extraordinary food and sustainable practices, Andy spent months researching and developing the best menus and the perfect recipe for swift food that refuses to compromise on quality.

Having spent many years in the food industry, Andy has honed his skills as an exceptional chef which he is now applying to elevate the experience of takeaway food. Sicilian culinary art is making its way to Stratford-Upon-Avon, drawing on the tradition of street food with a difference - inspired by the culture and dining experiences of Catania, Siracuse and Palermo.

At Clopton Catch you will find all your favourites, but with a twist!

Fresh fish, gourmet chips, award winning pies, kebabs like you've never seen them, homemade burgers and more! We are delighted to be working with some really great people within the industry so we are able to offer you the best of the best, including:

‘Mud Pies’ the award winning pies which use the finest ingredients such as 'grass-fed, organic beef steak, lamb and pork, local veg and welfare, free-range chicken’ creating the ultimate artisanal pie. Mud is a husband and wife team from the South Downs with over 50 awards won over 5 years, including over 30 British Pie and Great Taste Awards.

Unmistakable burgers made from incredible and sustainably farmed meats. From the first class beef to free range Cotswold chicken, we know that not only is this of the highest quality (as attested to by the royal warrant of Her Majesty and the multitude of accolaids that they've been awarded!) but that ethical practices and sustainable methods are a priority for this outstanding family business.

Dedicated to sustainability

Everything is freshly prepared in a custom designed, eco-friendly, sustainable kitchen which features the latest technology in filtration which not only is better for the planet, but also makes for tastier and healthier food! No more burnt grease aftertastes!

Clopton Catch is dedicated to sustainability with a zero plastic policy, everything in the front of house is either a glass or paper product - meaning you can indulge in your guilty pleasure without the guilt!

Got a craving for something delicious? Check out our menus below! Too many options to choose from? Feel free to ask for a recommendation

Alaska’s Pollock Fishery: A Model of Sustainability

Watch this video to learn how a combination of good science and collaborative management makes the Alaska pollock fishery a success.

Alaska’s cold, nutrient-rich waters support some of the largest and most successful commercial fisheries on the planet. The pollock fishery is one of them. It’s the second largest fishery in the world, worth an estimated $1.9 billion, and it provides nearly 30,000 jobs across the United States.

Alaskan pollock is the main ingredient in some of our most popular foods—like fish sticks, imitation crab, and even the iconic Filet-O-Fish. It’s also the biggest fishery in the United States by volume, and recognized worldwide as being well managed and sustainable.

For more than 20 years, NOAA Fisheries has been successfully managing the pollock fishery with a holistic ecosystem-based management model. Through innovation and sound science, government and industry continue to work together to improve this fishery, including efforts to reduce bycatch.

Empowering communities and contributing to their long-term social, economic and infrastructural development is an investment in the company’s future and provides a solid foundation for future success.

Yalelo’s efficient, scalable and sustainable aquaculture practices ease the pressure from decades of over-fishing. Being an environmentally friendly fishery and sustainable aquaculture farm is an important aspect of Yalelo’s process.

Working with local authorities and the government Yalelo has set commitments that address environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and traceability. By doing so, we can preserve our waters and fish for future generations.

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What is sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

Real life stories

The best way to understand the impact of the MSC program is through those involved. Read about the passionate people taking care of our oceans.

Sustainable fish recipes

Chefs and seafood lovers from around the world share quick and tasty ways of cooking MSC certified seafood.


Defines our commitment to offering the best fresh seafood at the peak of its season. We are committed to serving our guests only wild salmon. Our team selects the “Best of the Season” wild runs of fresh Chinook (King), Silver and Sockeye salmon from Alaska and the Northwest. The team at Anthony’s Seafoods knows the fisheries, their openings and their seasonal cycles. Selecting the best, freshest seafood at the height of the season provides our restaurants with the highest quality seafood to simply prepare showcasing their natural flavors. Alaska halibut, ling cod, petrale sole and rockfish as well as exotics such as Ahi, Mahi Mahi and swordfish are selected with the same high standards. We have developed the same strong personal relationships with our shellfish suppliers to bring the finest local Dungeness crab, clams, mussels and oysters to our restaurants. Understanding the seasonality of fresh fish, we are prepared to offer the highest quality seafood when fresh is not in season. Our team working with our seafood partners select the finest fish and freezing methods for preparing fish for the restaurants to offer during the down seasons.

5 Mushrooms That Can Replace Fish In Your Diet

If you watched the documentary Seaspiracy and contemplated the state of the oceans, you may be wondering, “Can I find a seafood alternative that is both sustainable and healthy for me?” The answer is, “Yes!” As a whole food, plant-based forager, I have encountered mushrooms that mimic every animal product imaginable, from the texture, appearance, taste, and smell. For a meal I made at home, I found and prepared a wild, foraged lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus, that just so happened to look like a fish fillet. It was meaty, chewy, and alarmingly close to looking like a real fish. I know a few vegans that would have declined the meal on sight had they not seen me harvest it from the tree!

As a whole food, plant-based forager, I have encountered mushrooms that mimic every animal product imaginable, from the texture, appearance, taste, and smell.

Where Can I Find These Mushrooms?

Some of the mushrooms I describe below have been cultivated by humans and can be found in stores or markets. Others will need to be foraged or purchased from a knowledgeable and generous forager. Check your local laws prior to foraging as laws vary by park, state, and country. As always, don’t eat anything that you cannot positively identify. To learn more about the foraging of wild foods near you, connect with local naturalists, mycologists, universities, and clubs!

Now that you are ready to explore fish alternatives that are healthy and sustainable, I am excited to present to you my top five whole food, mushroom-based fish and meat substitutes.

Earn Your Food and Sustainability Certificate

1. Oyster Mushrooms, Pleurotus spp., Replacement for Scallops, Shellfish, and White Fish

Time of Year: Year-round
Where to Find Them: Commonly cultivated, available in grocery stores

If you’ve ventured outside of the standard white button mushroom or portabella, there is a high likelihood that you’ve enjoyed an oyster mushroom. This mushroom is both easy to find while foraging and relatively easy to grow. The oyster mushroom encompasses a wide range of species in the Pleurotus genus, and their taste and texture can vary. While eating fish might leave you with increased cholesterol, this delicious mushroom might actually lower your cholesterol. Pleurotus ostreatus (pictured below), a common mushroom in North America, contains up to 2.8% lovastatin by dry weight. When fed to rats, it lowered their serum and liver cholesterol by 33% and 27%, respectively. [1] While this is excellent news for rats, humans can likely experience similar benefits as we eat more mushrooms and less fish. Saving the oceans and managing cholesterol has never been a more appealing venture.

Oyster mushrooms taste their best when the gills are still white. As they age, they turn yellow and then brown, and they develop a strong fishy odor. Wild varieties taste different from cultivated varieties they contain different nutrients and even have unique diets! While cultivated oyster mushrooms might be grown on sterilized grains or grasses, wild oyster mushrooms feed on decaying trees and nematodes.

Left: Notice how the gills of Pleurotus ostreatus continue up the length of the stipe/stem. Right: Pleurotus ostreatus habitat — Look for dead trees near rivers and streams

2. Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium spp., Replacement for Crab in Crab Cakes

Time of Year: Fall through spring
Where to Find Them: Commonly cultivated, available in some grocery stores, or from a grower

Hericium is another genus of mushroom that is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. While lion’s mane has been used medicinally for centuries in South East Asia and Japan, people worldwide continue to seek out and purchase this mushroom for its medicinal qualities. Some of the documented health claims include:

  1. Anti-tumor and immune-modulating activities. In vitro and in vivo research on esophageal cancer, intestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancers.
  2. Antihyperglycemic and antihypercholesterolemic activity.
  3. Neuronal growth activity.
  4. Antimicrobial activity.
  5. Antioxidant and anti-aging activities. [2]

Earn your plant-based nutrition certificate

While this mushroom continues to receive the focus of some experts worldwide, many of these health benefits are not confined solely to lion’s mane. Rather than focus on reductionist research, and rather than consuming this mushroom for specific health benefits, I seek out the lion’s mane mushroom because I find it delicious, healthful, and beautiful. While I have prepared this mushroom in many different ways, crab cakes have won my heart.

Left: Whole food, plant-based lion’s mane cakes Right: Winter lion’s mane harvested 20–30 feet in the air.

3. Maitake Mushroom, or Hen of the Woods, Grifola frondosa, Replacement for Lobster or Crab

Time of Year: Fall
Where to Find Them: Regularly cultivated, available in grocery stores

I first tried Maitake mushroom in a butternut squash curry, and it brought back my childhood memories of lobster bisque. Before going vegan, I used to tell people that lobster was my favorite food. When pulled apart and cooked in balsamic vinegar and mustard, this was one of my favorite mushroom dishes yet! You can find these mushrooms cultivated, but they tend to be very small, whereas the wild versions can grow up to 10 or 15 lbs! I once found over 15 lbs of hen of the woods mushrooms, and at one point, my entire fridge was full of this mushroom. I had plenty to eat daily while also gifting it to friends, family, and even strangers. This mushroom can be challenging to find. For those who are new to foraging, learn how to find and identify this mushroom. There are no deadly look-alikes in North America. I commonly see this mushroom next to red oak trees in the early fall.

Hen of the woods spotted in an Atlanta park! You won’t find a maitake this size in your local grocery store!

Lentil-curry hen-of-the-woods bisque

4. Cauliflower Mushrooms, Sparassis spp., Replacement for Calamari

Time of Year: Summer
Where to Find Them: Cultivated in Asia, available by wild foraging

The cauliflower mushroom is one of the more elusive and beautiful mushrooms on this list. My girlfriend’s parents sent me this photo asking for an identification. I instructed them to take the mushroom immediately, and they gifted half to me and kept half for themselves. The mushroom has the unmistakable texture of calamari. While I didn’t batter and fry this mushroom myself, I could see it replacing the squid market one day. While the cultivation of this mushroom is rare, there is research on cultivation in Korea, and I believe this mushroom will be more commonly produced in the coming years. [3]

Sparassis spathulata foraged and photographed by Stephen Johnson

5. Young Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus spp., Replacement for Chicken or Salmon

Time of Year: Spring through fall
Where to Find Them: Difficult to cultivate, available by wild foraging

As the name implies, this mushroom is a great chicken substitute. The mature specimen is often stringy and somewhat dry. It requires a nice marinade and goes well in BBQ chicken recipes. Last year was my first year finding a chicken of the woods, and I didn’t find just one but seven different mushrooms, weighing a total of nearly 20 pounds! I made a TikTok video to capture my incredible find, which resonated with many people as it was viewed over 346,000 times!

The young version of this mushroom is soft and light, easy to chew, and delicious. I cooked the water out of the mushroom, and once I browned each side, I added lemon and pepper. It was delectable, and the texture reminded me of salmon or scallops while still young and tender.

A young and large specimen of Laetiporus cincinnatus, or white-pored chicken of the woods

A young Laetiporus sulphureus, the yellow pored chicken of the woods

An older specimen of Laetiporus sulphureus, with a dry, stringy, chicken-like consistency

Young and tender chicken of the woods. Cooked Chicken of the woods, finished with lemon and black pepper

Our oceans need time to rest, regenerate, and heal. If you care about the state of our oceans and you want to do all that you can to help support the diverse and suffering ecosystem, start with your diet. Mushrooms can sustainably replace every type of seafood imaginable, from salmon to white fish, oysters to scallops, and crabs to squid. By removing fish from your diet and replacing it with mushrooms, you will experience a wide array of tastes and textures that mimic the consistency and even the taste of seafood without contributing to the destruction of the ocean. By finding mushrooms locally, either through foraging or buying from local sellers, you will be supporting the seas, your health, and the health of our planet.

Watch the video: Olleys Fish Experience a Restaurants in London serving Fish and Chips (December 2021).