What Are the Different Types of Edible Mushrooms and How Do You Use Them?
The spongy, delicately flavoured fungi delicacy that has sent people trampling through damp forests and fields/meadows for centuries in search of the perfect sponge-textured morsel for a myriad of recipes.
Mushrooms add an interesting flavour and texture to a variety of global cuisine, but one must be careful when selecting mushrooms for cooking, remedies or medicinal purposes because only about 3% of wild mushroom varieties are safe for human consumption.
More and more people are now starting to branch out and use different and exotic ingredients in their cooking at home and are starting to seek out different types of mushrooms for different purposes.
Pretty much everyone is familiar with the regular white "button" mushrooms that are easily found in cartons in the supermarket but if you look a little further there are a plethora of other wonderfully interesting varieties available with varying flavours and a variety of uses. These 'gourmet' mushroom varieties can now be found in many better supermarkets and specialty grocery stores. Now here's some ideas about how to use them and get the most out of their unique flavor in your cooking...
Also known as Enokitake are thin, long, white colored mushrooms that are most commonly used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine.
These mushrooms naturally grow on the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree, called 'enoki' in Japanese, but also on some other trees such as mulberry and persimmon. In Chinese, the mushroom is called jīnzhēngū金針菇 or jīngū金菇. In Korean it is called paengi beoseot (팽이버섯) as is kim châm or trâm vàng in Vietnamese.
Wild forms of this mushroom that differ in colour, texture and slimness are called velvet stem or winter mushrooms.
These mushrooms are available fresh or canned and they are traditionally used for making soups but they have also become popular for use in other Asian dishes and even salads because they have such a crisp texture and interesting shape.
When you are picking out Enoki mushrooms in the grocery store or market, ensure that the stems/stalks are as white as you can find in color and firm to the touch. Avoid those with more brownish or slimy stalks. With this type of mushroom, there is a significant difference in appearance between the wild and the cultivated mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are known to be quite high in antioxindants. The stalk or the 'golden needle' also contains a large amount of protein.
Species of this variety:
A truffle is the 'fruiting body' of an underground mushroom. The majority of truffles are ectomycorrhizal and are therefore generally found in close association with trees, particularly with the roots of tree species including poplar, beech, oak, birch, hornbeam, pine and hazel.
They do best in soils which are well-drained and either neutral or alkaline in nature and they fruit throughout the year and they can be found buried between the soil and the leaf litter.
There are a few different types of truffles including:
- White truffle [Tuber magnatum] (aka "Alba madonna") - found in Italy and Croatia)
- Black truffle [Tuber melanosporum] (aka "black Périgord truffle") - found in France, Spain, Italy, Croatia and the Australian states of Tasmania and Western Australia.
- Chinese truffle [Tuber sinensis or Tuber indicum] - found in China and in small quantities in the Chinese Himalayas.
- Summer truffle [Tuber aestivum/uncinatum] (aka black summer or burgundy truffle) - found across Europe.
- Scorzone truffle [Tuber Aestivum]
Truffles are highly prized as a food and have often been called "the diamond of the kitchen".
They are held in high esteem in French, Spanish, northern Italian and Greek cooking as well as in international haute cuisine.
Because of their high cost and extremely pungent taste, truffles are used very sparingly. Supplies can be found commercially as unadulterated fresh produce or preserved, typically in a light brine. A popular preserve today is known as 'truffle oil', made from the brine of truffles after they are harvested. It preserves the distinctive flavour of the truffle and makes it more widely available and easier to use as an oil form. Be careful though, as many commercially available 'truffle oils' do not actually contain real truffles, instead they are prepared using a substitute to recreate the flavour of truffles and are mostly olive oil.
White truffles are usually served raw, shaved over hot pasta or salads. White or black paper-thin truffle slices may be inserted into meats, under the skins of roasted fowl, in foie gras, pâtés, or stuffings. The flavour of black truffles is far less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles.
Chanterelle mushrooms, also known as golden chanterelle, is a fungus. It is funnel shaped, has a meaty texture and is usually yellow or orange in colour. It has a fruity apricot scent and a mild, peppery taste. Chanterelle are considered an excellent edible mushroom that is fantastic in many types of cooking.
They are commonly found in northern Europe, North America, Mexico, Asia (including the Himalayas) and many parts of Africa. They tend to grow in clusters in mossy forests and birch forests as well as in grasses and low growing herbs.
Chanterelles are quite high in Vitamin C, extremely rich in potassium as well as being one of the richest sources of Vitamin D known to man.
As for their culinary use, there are records of chanterelles being eaten which date back to the 1500s. However, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 1700s, when they started to appear in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Nowadays, the usage of chanterelles in kitchens is common throughout Europe and North America. For this reason, Chanterelles have come to be known "as one of the most important and best edible mushrooms".
Portobello mushrooms, also known as portabella mushrooms, is native to the grasslands of Europe and North America. It is one of the most widely and commonly consumed mushroom varieties all over the world.
This type of mushroom, being so commonly used and available, is marketed differently depending on where you find it. Hence you will sometimes see it named as a crimini mushroom, a Swiss brown mushrooms, a Roman brown mushrooms, an Italian brown or simply an Italian mushroom. What it is named is all dependent upon where you live and whether the particular mushroom is juvenile or not. Also, a young specimen of this variety may be called a 'button mushroom' or a 'baby portobello'.
But they are distinctive in their white/pale grey or sometimes slightly light brown flesh and domed shape and we have all become used to seeing them often served on pizzas, grilled or sauteed in pasta, oven roasted and so on, so they are not difficult to recognize when you are looking for them in the grocery store.
This variety of mushroom is cultivated in over 70 countries. They are also very high in Vitamin D, potassium and contain large amounts of antioxidants.
Porcini, penny bun or cep mushrooms, scientifically known as Boletus edulis, is a widely distributed edible mushroom found in North America, Asia and Europe.
It does not occur naturally in the Southern Hemisphere, although it has been introduced into southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It is commonly prepared in soups, pasta and risotto.
Stem shape of the porcini can range from club-shaped to centrally bulbous. The Boletus edulis can grow singly or in small clusters of 2 or 3. The mushroom tends to grow in areas dominated by pine.
It favours climates that are either cool or subtropical. It is most common in Europe, North America and Mexico.
Size can vary
The Shiitake, or Lentinula edodes, (from the Japanese 椎茸、シイタケ) is an edible mushroom native to East Asia. It is sometimes also known as the Black Forest mushroom.
It is harvested in and commonly consumed in many Asian countries and it is also dried and exported to many countries worldwide.
Shiitake mushrooms are a common ingredient found in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine.
In the Eastern cultures, the shiitake mushroom has long been considered a delicacy as well as a medicinal mushroom used for many purposes. They have been grown in China and Japan since prehistoric times with the oldest record regarding the shiitake mushroom dating back to AD 199 at the time of Emperor Chūai in Japan.
In Japan, Shiitake mushrooms are served in the popular miso soup and in Thailand they may be served either steamed or fried.
Morchella mushrooms (aka true morels or sponge mushrooms) are one of the most distinctive edible mushrooms in that they feature a unique honeycomb like look to them. The upper section features a complex pattern of ridges and pits.
They are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly by the French. morels are hunted by thousands of people every year simply for their taste and the joy of the hunt.
Yellow morels are most commonly found under deciduous trees, and black morels tend to favour oak and poplar trees.
Their unique flavor is prized by cooks worldwide, with recipes and preparation methods designed to highlight and preserve it. As with most edible mushrooms, they are best when harvested or bought fresh.
Pleurotus, more commonly known as oyster, abalone or tree mushrooms, are some of the most widely harvested and readily available mushrooms in the world.
They are found in both tropical and temperate climates globally and they are generally large mushrooms that are cream in color. They are generally found as white-rot fungi on hardwood trees or conifer wood.
They have been given the name oyster mushrooms because they often tend to resemble the shape of an oyster shell. They are also are a good source of niacin, thiamine and riboflavin, and also supply folate and dietary fibre.
When shopping for oyster mushrooms, look for mushrooms with firm, dry skin and make sure you store them in a paper bag close to the bottom of the fridge if you can. Before you prepare them, wipe off with a damp cloth (never wash them or soak them to clean because they will become waterlogged) and trim the ends. You can then slice them if that's what your recipe requires.
- For a quick and easy meal you can stir fry them with beef strips, garlic, ginger, any Asian greens you like and a dash of soy sauce to finish.
- You can also stir them through Asian soups or stir-fry dishes near the end of cooking until they are just tender. They will liven up any Asian style meal with their unique flavour and texture.
Reishi - the most commonly used medicinal mushroom
Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms or extracts from mushrooms "that are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases".
Poisonous mushrooms, feared as 'toadstools' by past generations, have the power to kill a victim in under a week - sometimes in hours. They can often be identified by a cup at the bottom of the stem, called the volva.