Watch the video HERE.
There are literally thousands of different varieties of mushrooms that exist, so for the sake of keeping this simple, I decided to cover the mushrooms that I most often see at my grocery store.
I’ll be covering White, Portabella, Cremini, Chantrelle, and Shitake Mushrooms (if you prefer to watch and listen, you can do that here).
Mushrooms are a fungus and they have very powerful medicinal qualities; they are antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory plus they help boost and support the immunity.
Part of what gives mushrooms their potency is their ability to absorb and concentrate whatever they grown in. So it is important that you try to find organic mushrooms whenever possible.
The two big categories for mushrooms are cultivated mushrooms and wild mushrooms.
Cultivated mushrooms are the day to mushrooms that you are probably most familiar with; white mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and portabella mushrooms are all examples of cultivated mushrooms, so lets explore them a bit!
White Mushrooms are probably the most common mushroom available to us. They have a mild earthy flavor and can be eaten either raw or cooked. They can range anywhere from a half of an inch to 3 inches around the cap and will have their stem attached as well. Sometimes when you see the smaller white mushrooms they will be labeled button mushrooms but other then their size they are the exact mushroom. The tiny guys are the babies and the bigger guys are the elders (those are the ones people like to stuff AND BAKE).
They are usually sold in both bulk or in 8 ounce packages and while you can find them all year round their peak season is in the fall and the winter.
Cremini mushrooms and Portabello mushrooms are essentially the same mushroom. Let the cremini mushroom continue to grow and the cap opens and flattens out and the gills turn a deep chocolate brown. This is why often times cremini’s are called baby bellas, because they are a technically a baby portabella mushroom.
Cremini mushrooms are also called Italian brown mushrooms or swiss brown. They are very similar in shape and size to a white mushroom, the only difference is they are darker in color. The creminis are a brownish tan, and have a little more depth and flavor then the white mushroom. But ultimately a cremini and a white mushroom are really interchangeable in any recipe; so if you want a more mild flavor go for the white mushrooms and if you want a deeper, richer flavor, go with the cremini.
The Portabella mushrooms are much larger then white or cremini mushrooms. The caps are open and flat and can measure up to 6-inches in diameter. You can see that underneath, the gills are exposed which means that some of the mushrooms moisture has evaporated, the reduced moisture concentrates and enriches the flavor of the mushroom and creates a dense, meaty texture. This is why often times you will see people use Portabella mushrooms being used as a meat substitute. They are great on the grill and make a delicious burger or vegetarian alternative for steak. Even meat lovers enjoy their hearty texture!
The stems tend to be tough and woody, so most often they are removed but be sure not to toss them because they are great tossed into soups and stocks.
Now lets chat about a couple of the more common wild mushrooms.
The Shitake mushroom is one of my personal favorite wild mushrooms. They are expensive (but all wild mushrooms tend to be a bit pricey). They have tan to dark brown umbrella like caps, a meaty texture and a very distinctive smokey flavor.
Unlike the cultivated mushrooms the shiitake mushroom is best when it is cooked. The stems are too tough to eat so be sure you remove them before cooking with your shitake.
Often times you will see shitake mushrooms sold dried. If thats the case you can reconstitute them by simply pouring some hot water over the mushrooms and soaking for about 15 minutes. They will become soft and supple and ready to go, just be sure to reserve the soaking liquid as well because it is now full of flavor and can happily be tossed into whatever dish you are making with your shitake mushrooms.
Remember this: 3 ounces of dried mushrooms is equivalent to 1 lb. of fresh mushrooms.
Spring and autumn are the seasons when fresh shiitakes are most available. Choose plump mushrooms with edges that curl under. Avoid any with broken or shriveled caps. The versatile shiitake is suitable for almost any cooking method including sautéing, broiling and baking. Shiitake mushrooms are also called Chinese black mushrooms and forest mushrooms.
Another wild mushroom that I found at my grocery store is the Chanterelle. Chanterelle mushrooms are orange and gold in color. Some say they look like a tulip (I’m not so sure!).
The entire mushroom is edible but the stem tends to be a little more chewy then than the cap. They have a dense meaty texture and the flavor is nutty and fruity. This was my first time ever trying them and oh my! they were SO delicious.
Once you get mushrooms home, whether they are cultivated or wild, keep them in the refrigerator in either plastic or paper bags. If you prefer to use plastic bags, it might be a good idea to poke a few holes in it to allow some air to circulate.
Then when you are ready to use them, wipe them with a damp towel. Because mushrooms are so absorbent it’s best not to wash them under running water but if you must, be sure to use cold water, work quickly, and dry them off when you are done.
Then just trim them up and they are ready to go.
Mushrooms loved to be baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed and eaten raw! They are really very versatile.