Mushrooms - Love em or Hate em


Mushrooms – Love em or Hate em?

An often-under-appreciated food, mushrooms have been eaten and used as medicine for thousands of years. All varieties of mushrooms are low in calories and fat and contain modest amounts of fiber and various nutrients. Due to the presence of an amino acid called glutamate, mushrooms are also recognized for their ability to create umami flavour. Umami is considered the fifth basic taste, alongside sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is a savory flavour which can enhance low-sodium foods, reducing the need for added salt.

Although considered a vegetable, mushrooms are neither a plant nor animal based food. They are a type of fungus that contains a substance called ergosterol, similar in structure to cholesterol in animals. Mushrooms vary in appearance with more than 10,000 known types, but generally they are distinguished by a stem, fleshy rounded cap, and gills underneath the cap. Because some wild mushrooms can be Poisonous and hard to identify, you should always buy mushrooms from a reliable grocery store or market. The most common types found in grocery stores are:

1. White button 

The most common and most mild mushroom is the white button mushrooms. Button mushrooms are soft in texture and can be eaten both raw and cooked. Use them in soups, salads, pizza, pasta, and lasagna (to name a few). 



2. Cremini

Often labeled as “baby Bellas,” cremini mushrooms are a young variety of the portobello. They are interchangeable in most recipes with their relative the white button, but more firm in texture, darker in color and even more flavorful. They’re often a bit more expensive than white buttons, but they’re worth the added expense. 


3. Portobello

Portobello mushrooms are large (think the size of your hand), are incredibly “meaty,” and rich in flavor. Since they’re dense and hold up to a variety of cooking methods (grilling, broiling, and roasting), they make a great vegetarian meat alternative. 


4. Shiitake 

Idyllic in shape, the shiitake mushroom has a slender stem and a rounded cap that slightly curves under. Fresh shiitakes have an earthy flavor that bodes well for soups and sauces. Discard stems prior to cooking. Dried shiitakes are also a common ingredient, they are extremely intense in earthy, woodsy flavor.


5. Oyster 

Their name is no mistake, oyster mushrooms look, well, like oysters. But imagine oysters in a cluster. Very tender and chewy in texture, oyster mushrooms are light in color and have a mild almost sweet aroma and flavor. Once cooked, oyster mushrooms take on a meaty texture. Use oyster mushrooms in soups, sauces, and stir-fries. 


6. Porcini 

One of the most sought-after types of edible mushrooms, these reddish-brown fungi can be nearly impossible to find fresh, though they can easily be found dried. Porcini mushrooms have a deep, intense woodsy flavor and are smooth in texture.

If you can find them fresh, snatch them up! (Though you may need to be in Italy or France just to get your hands on some fresh porcini mushrooms.) Otherwise, turn to dried for adding tons of flavor to soups, broths, and sauces. 


7. Chanterelles 

This wild mushroom is a beloved variety. Their gorgeous golden color and firm meaty texture adds to their appeal. They have a sweet fruity scent, nutty flavor, and are trumpet-like in shape with a gilled texture running up the stem and under the cap. These mushrooms are stunning!


8. Morels 

A sought-after spring treat in the Midwest and West, the morel mushroom is bold in flavor and somewhat spongey in texture. They have a cone-like shape and are best sautéed in butter, fried, or cooked in a creamy sauce. Look for Morel mushrooms at your local Farmers’ Market in March or April.


9. Beech or Shimeji

With long slender stems and small caps, these clusters of mushrooms are great for brothy soups or stir fries. Available ass White or Brown. Although they can be eaten raw, cooking helps lift the bitter flavor. You can often find Beech mushrooms at your local Asian market.


10. Enokitake

These noodle-like mushrooms are light white with an almost opaque hue. They feature small shiny caps and are delicious fried, used in pho or ramen, and even as a noodle alternative. 


11. Maitake (Hen of Woods)

Another “cluster” variety, this type of edible mushroom resembles a head of cabbage. They have a unique earthy, gamy flavor and are soft in texture.  


12. King Trumpet

Largely sought after for their meaty stems, King Trumpets (also referred to as king oyster mushrooms) have thick white stems and stout brown caps. In their raw form they have little flavor, but once cooked they take on a savory, slightly sweet taste.


While I like all kinds of mushroom the ones I use the most are plain old White Button and Cremini. They are the base for my cream of mushroom soup. I especially like finding them on the reduced table because they are a little older and more flavourful which makes not only a cheaper but a better tasting soup.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

This creamy delicious soup is full of button and cremini mushroom. Cold weather comfort food at its best.

| Cream Of Mushroom Soup - Download Recipe |

I would love to hear about your favourite mushroom recipes and stories.

Watch for my next blog when I will talk about vegetarianism and all its forms.


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