Wednesday's In The Know: Mushroom Varieties
With countless varieties of mushrooms exciting foragers across the Pacific Northwest (and beyond) it’s time to understand which is which and the best uses for each. Plus, if nothing else, it’s a great excuse (as if we needed one) to visit your local farmers markets when on the quest for a new variety to incorporate into your weekly menu routine!
- Alternate Names: Portobella, field mushroom, open cap mushroom – Epicurious
- Characteristics: Common in Italian cooking, dense, rich portobellos lend depth to sauces and pastas and make a great meat substitute. Their large caps are perfect for marinating and grilling. When portabellos are young and small, they're called criminis – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: Up to 6 inches across, Portobello’s have a big, steak-like taste and texture; in fact, the huge, umbrella-like caps are often eaten as vegetarian burger substitutes. Remove the woody stems before eating - Real Simple
- Alternate names: Tree oyster, angel's wings – Epicurious
- Characteristics: Although these can be found in the wild growing on the sides of trees, the ones you'll find in the store or on a menu are most likely cultivated. Like their namesakes, they're whitish in color and fan-shaped, and possess a delicate odor and flavor. Oyster mushrooms are found in many Japanese and Chinese dishes such as soups and stir-fries – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: Velvety and trumpet-shaped, oyster mushrooms have delicate brown, gray, or reddish caps on gray-white stems. They have a peppery flavor that becomes very mild when cooked. Young, small specimens are considered the best – Real Simple
3. Hen of the Wood:
- Alternate names: Maitake, sheepshead mushroom, ram's head, kumotake – Epicurious
- Characteristics: From afar, this mushroom can look like a head of cabbage. Cultivated, as well as found in the woods, hen of the woods mushrooms are often sold in clusters with their soft, feathery caps overlapping. This mushroom has an earthy aroma and a gamy flavor, and is native to both the northwestern United States and Japan, where it's known as maitake ("dancing mushrooms") – Epicurious
- Alternate names: Shiitake, black forest, black winter, brown oak, Chinese black, black mushroom, oriental black, forest mushroom, golden oak, Donko – Epicurious
- Characteristics: In Japanese, shiitake means "oak fungus," which describes where the mushrooms can be found in the wild. These days, however, most shiitakes are cultivated. They're best identified by their caps, which curl under ever so slightly. Fresh shiitakes have a light woodsy flavor and aroma, while their dried counterparts are more intense – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: With meaty tan to dark-brown umbrella-like caps, shiitakes have a distinctively smoky flavor and taste best when cooked. Available fresh or dried, they work well in stir-fries as the flavor doesn’t fade next to ginger and garlic. Although the stems are too tough to eat and should be removed from the heads before cooking, you can use them to flavor stocks and sauces before discarding – Real Simple
5. Crimino (crimini, pl.):
- Alternate names: Crimini, cremini, baby bellas, golden Italian, Roman, classic brown, Italian brown, brown mushroom – Epicurious
- Characteristics: A crimino is a young portobello. Although the crimino is darker, firmer and more flavorful than its cousin the white button mushroom, the two can be used interchangeably. Increasingly, retailers hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the portabellos are selling crimini mushrooms as "baby bellas " – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: Similar to white mushrooms but with a firmer texture and deeper flavor, creminis are actually immature Portobello’s. The button-like caps range from pale tan to rich brown. The stems are edible – Real Simple
6. White button:
- Alternate names: Table mushroom, cultivated mushroom, button, champignon (de Paris) – Epicurious
- Characteristics: Less intensely flavored than many of its more exotic kin, the white button is the most ubiquitous of mushrooms in the United States. It can be eaten either raw or cooked, and works well in soups and salads, and on pizzas. In France, button mushrooms are called champignons – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: The most common type, white mushrooms range in size from tiny—called button, which are harvested when young and have the mildest flavor—to jumbo, which can be stuffed and baked. Creamy white to pale tan, they have a firm texture and a delicate flavor – Real Simple
- Alternate names: Golden (yellow) chanterelle, egg mushroom, girolle (girole), Pfifferling – Epicurious
- Characteristics: Trumpet like, with a depression in the center of its cap, the chanterelle is one of the most popular wild mushrooms. (Because they're notoriously difficult to cultivate, chanterelles are usually foraged in the wild.) Fleshy and firm, they're described as having an apricot like scent. They're common in many European cuisines, including French and Austrian, and are also native to the United States – Epicurious
- Characteristics Continued: Prized for a fruity aroma, chanterelles range from yellow, orange, and brown to pale white or black. The funnel-shaped caps have wrinkles instead of gills on the underside, which should be washed quickly but carefully before using – Real Simple
8. Porcino (porcini, pl.):
- Alternate names: Cèpe (cep), bolete, king bolete, borowik, Polish mushroom, Steinpilz, stensopp, penny bun – Epicurious
- Characteristics: Slightly reddish-brown in color, porcinis are one of the most prized wild mushrooms, sought out for their smooth texture and aromatic, woodsy flavor. They're popular in Italy, as well as in France, where they're called cèpes. Fresh porcinis aren't as easy to locate in the United States, but dried ones are easily reconstituted by soaking in hot water – Epicurious
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