Mushrooms

Like most people, I am usually completely opposed to fungi. Even the word “fungi” gives me the heebie-jeebies. There is, however, one fungus I simply cannot get enough of. Sautéed, stuffed or fried, mushrooms are my favorite kind of fungus.

Benefits of Mushrooms

Not only are these delightful little morsels a tasty treat, but they offer nutritional benefits as well. Vitamin B, selenium, riboflavin, potassium, niacin and vitamin D can all be found in the unassuming mushroom. All of these nutrients are crammed into one low-calorie, cholesterol- and fat-free package.

Mushroom Varieties

Picking the right kind of mushroom for your meal can be a matter of life or death. Some varieties are poisonous to humans so identification is important. Thankfully, your local grocery store should not be stocking any poisonous mushrooms.

Here are some of the edible varieties you may want to consider:

  • Agaricus – Also known as the white button mushroom. Very common and easy to cultivate.

  • Chanterelle – A unique golden color. Prized for its rich flavor when cooked, but seldom eaten raw.

  • Crimini – Similar to the the button mushrooms with more prominent flavor. Also known as Italian brown.

  • Shiitake – Often found in Asian cuisine, referred to as the Chinese black mushroom.

  • Oyster – Delicate in flavor. Great cooked or eaten raw as a salad garnish.

  • Enoki – With tendril-like sprouts topped by tiny caps, the “snow puff” mushroom can be canned, used as a garnish or cooked

  • Portabello – The hamburger of mushrooms. Can be used as a meat substitute because of its thick, firm texture.

  • Porcini – Sold fresh, but usually sliced and dried to intensify flavor. Perfect for risotto or soups.

  • Morel – Resembles a pine cone. Usually found growing wild.

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Cultivating Mushrooms

Mushrooms can be grown year-round, but are especially satisfying in rich winter dishes. How does one grow these succulent fungi, you ask?

  • Damp, dark, moist conditions are ideal for cultivating mushrooms. Most mushrooms prefer temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees.

  • Mushrooms are grown in a variety of mediums depending on the type. Logs, manure, dirt, and other organic matter provide an ideal substrate.

  • White button mushrooms grow best in manure, while shiitakes thrive on logs or hardwood sawdust.

  • Growing kits are available for purchase online to jump-start the home growing process.

  • Instead of seeds, mushrooms are grown from tiny spores. They do not contain chlorophyll and depend on their host medium for nutrients.

  • The combination of spores and nutrients is referred to as “spawn.”

  • Adding spores to the substrate is called “inoculation.”

  • Mycelium is the thin, web-like root system of a mushroom which develops first.

Harvesting Mushrooms

  • Button mushrooms are able to be harvested within four weeks, but mushrooms grown outdoors may take from six months to a few years.

  • Harvest by cutting stems with a sharp knife, taking care not to disrupt the mushrooms around it.

  • Mushrooms can be stored in their original packaging or in a paper bag in the refrigerator for about a week.

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Used as a meat substitute, garnish or in a hearty stew, mushrooms are incredibly versatile and delicious. I love them sautéed with onions and garlic, and whipped into a decadent omelette. Try one of these recipes featuring the marvelous mushroom:

Recipes

Mushroom-Stuffed Mushrooms

Cheesy Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

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Beef Bourguignon

Italian Squash Medley

Grilled Vegetables with Basil Vinaigrette

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hannah, I grow Shiitake mushrooms and enjoyed your article immensely. It was accurate and well worded so the lay person could understand. Nice going.

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