The Most Popular Types of Mushrooms
Mushrooms have a sweet and delicate flavor that can do wonders to your dish. They are also very easy to cook and are famous in sautés and stir-fries. Like all culinary ingredients, mushrooms come in different types. There are tens of thousands of species of mushrooms around the world. However, only about 20 or so species are used in the culinary world. Here are some of the most popular types of mushrooms you should know about.
This is the most popular as well as the most common type of mushroom in the world. Nine in 10 of the mushrooms that we use in our dishes are button mushrooms. People call them different names. Some call them cultivated mushrooms. Others call them champignon or table mushroom. Regardless of what people call this type of fungus, it is one of the most versatile mushrooms you can have in the kitchen. It works well in stews, soups, and salads. Many pizzerias also use them as toppings in their creations.
One can enjoy button mushrooms either cooked or raw. When eaten raw, it is best to clean mushrooms well. It has a delicate taste and a very mild flavor. This makes it a great ingredient with amazing versatility. It will never overpower the other flavors of your dish. This fungus comes with a white color. It is an indication that they are still immature. As they grow older, they turn brown. They are then called Creminis. Once they reach old age, the mushrooms take on a darker color. They also take a different name – Portobello mushrooms.
As mentioned above, Portobello is the mature version of a button mushroom. They come from the same species of mushroom, known as Agaricus bisporus. Portobello mushrooms are the mature versions of Creminis. If we are going to follow the development of this type of mushroom, you will have the button mushroom as the immature version. The Cremini is the juvenile or young adult. The Portobello is the oldest or the most mature of the three.
Portobello mushrooms are large. Some can be as large as the palm of one’s hand. They have a very dense texture. Because Portobellos are mature button mushrooms, they tend to have a very rich taste. They can replace meats in many dishes because of their strong flavor. They are also ideal in the making of sauces as well as an ingredient in pasta. People who want a healthier hamburger often use the flat cap of Portobello mushrooms. This type of mushroom is also perfect for stuffing and grilling because of its size.
We already mentioned above the life stages of the fungus Agaricus bisporus. When it is still very young and immature, it is known as a button or champignon mushroom. It is white in color. Once it reaches ‘adolescence’, it turns brown. These are the Cremini mushrooms. They become Portobellos if you allow them to grow larger.
Because of this, many chefs call Creminis baby Portobellos or older buttons. If not for their brown color, it would be easy to mistake Cremini mushrooms for champignons. They are a lot closer to white champignons when it comes to their flavor profile. It has a firmer texture and are more flavorful than their immature versions, however. Many home cooks and chefs often interchange the two. They regularly use Creminis in dishes where they want more flavor.
There is no mistaking Shiitake mushrooms. These have a very distinct umbrella shape and a medium-length stem. They are famous in East Asian countries, especially Japan, Korea, and China. It is for this reason that they are mainstays in many Asian dishes. People call them black winter, oriental black, brown oak, Donko, forest mushroom, and a few other names. Most chefs simply call them Shiitakes.
In the past, the Japanese harvested Shiitakes in the wild. This gave the mushroom its name, the ‘oak fungus’. Today, most of the Shiitakes we enjoy come from farms. This fungus has a light woodsy aroma and flavor. When dried, the flavors and aromas become more intense. Chefs like to use them in sauces and soups. The flavor of Shiitake mushrooms can further enhance the flavor of these dishes. They can also be used as toppings for meat dishes.
Italians love Porcini mushrooms. It is almost similar to Portobellos in terms of its meaty texture. It has a slight nutty flavor that pairs well with its creamy and smooth texture. When cooked, Porcinis give that distinct aroma of sourdough. They have a bulbous stem, especially towards the root. The mushroom head is small relative to the stem. It is like a Shiitake with a very fat and short stem.
It is difficult to find fresh Porcini mushrooms in the US. However, there are dried Porcinis in the market that you will need to ‘rehydrate’. Soak them in hot water for about 10 to 15 minutes to rehydrate and soften them up. They make the perfect ingredients for sautés, risottos, and soups. Some chefs also grind them to a powdery consistency to add in their pasta dough. It is also one of the few species of edible mushrooms that people can pickle.
People call them Oyster mushrooms because they come in clusters, like oysters. They also have a fan-like shape. You do not get them sprouting from the ground as individual fungus. Instead, they grow on the barks of trees in the wild. They come in a number of names. In France, they’re called the pleurote en huitre. Others call them the tree oyster, the abalone mushroom, or the angel’s wings.
Most of these mushrooms are already cultivated today. Oysters have a very delicate aroma and flavor. In East Asian cuisine, these mushrooms are mainstays in stir-fries and soups. These are great ingredients for ragout and stews in the West. Its anise-like taste can make for a very interesting dish.
Many people mistake Enoki mushrooms for bean sprouts. This is not surprising since they do resemble bean sprouts. The only difference is that they have longer stems and are joined as clusters at the roots. The mushroom heads look like the tips of cotton buds. Most of these have a perfectly round shape, however. Wild Enokis grow on mulberry, persimmon, ash, and Chinese Hackberry trees.
Enoki mushrooms have a very distinct crunch. They are often added in authentic Japanese ramen. Other Asian cuisines also use Enokis in their soups and salads. Their mild sweetness and their distinct crunch make Enokis best eaten raw. However, you can always include them in almost any other dish.
One of the most popular species of edible mushrooms in the world is the Chanterelle. These are wild mushrooms that have a characteristic trumpet shape. They are also quite expensive, since they are challenging to grow. People have to forage for Chanterelle mushrooms in the wild. This fungus is very famous in many French and Austrian cuisines. It is also common in the United States. It is available in both fresh and dried forms. There is another version of Chanterelle with black coloring. These have a smoky flavor. When dried, they can possess hints of truffle.
Because of their wild nature, Chanterelles have a very earthy fragrance. Most people describe it as woody. Some varieties of Chanterelle mushrooms have a hint of spiciness to them. They are best sautéed in butter. Other people combine it with cream or eggs. These mushrooms have a delicate texture that is ideal in pasta dishes, soups, and cream sauces. More adventurous chefs use Chanterelles in the making of soufflés.
Gourmet chefs love Morel mushrooms. These are very delicious and savory mushrooms that French culinary masters love to work with. They have a unique honeycomb look. Like Chanterelles, Morels are also very difficult to cultivate. Hence, people harvest them in the wild. It is a mushroom that is native to North America, the Himalayas, China, India, Turkey, and Pakistan.
Morel mushrooms are best enjoyed sautéed in butter with a dash of pepper and salt for seasoning. They have an umami taste, although they can be a bit chewy. Morels are perfect companions for meat and poultry dishes. Some also use them as fillings in pasta. Adding them to your favorite soup can enhance the flavor of your dish.
The Japanese call the Maitake mushroom the dancing mushroom. This is because their heads look like the tutus of ballerinas spreading in an outward fashion. They also look like Oyster mushrooms in that they form clusters instead of individual mushrooms. They have a dreamy appearance, yet rich and earthy flavors. Outside Japan, Maitakes are known as Hen of the Woods.
Maitake mushrooms are ideal for stir-fries and soups. They are able to hold their shape during the cooking process. Most will sauté the mushrooms with olive oil. They then add chili-infused vinegar. This serves as a great accoutrement to pizza, omelet, or grits. You can slow-cook, deep-fry, or broil Maitakes, too.
Learning about the most popular types of mushrooms can help improve your culinary skills. You can now elevate the flavors of your dishes by knowing which type of mushroom to use.