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All About Mushrooms

Mushroom cultivation in the United States first began in Kennett Square (of course!) in 1896 when two local florists wanted to make more efficient use of their greenhouses by utilizing the area underneath the shelves used to grow ornamental plants. This set-up was less than idea, however, with improvements in technology over many years, and many generations later, the cultivation of mushrooms in the United States is greater than ever.

Mushroom Varieties

White Mushroom
Also know as button mushrooms, their scientific name is Agricus bisporus (=brunescens). These mushrooms vary in color from white to light brown. They can range in size from small (usually used for marinating) to large (used mostly for stuffing). Use raw for salads and vegetable trays. Marinated, stuffed or sautéed, they are the perfect vegetable to compliment any meal.

This is a brown variety of the common white mushroom, also know as Agaricus bisporus (=brunescens), and may be referred to as the Italian brown. Criminis are considered to have a much more intense and ‘earthy’ flavor compared to the white variety. Their texture is also firmer than the white. Crimini can easily substitute white mushrooms if a deeper mushroom flavor is desired. In particular, with beef and wild game dishes.

This mushroom is very deceiving, and is actually an overgrown Crimini. Because of the longer growing cycle, and a characteristic opened cap, this mushroom has an exquisite meaty flavor and texture. Try using whole on the grill or baked and substitute for meat in a burger. When sliced it can be used to substitute white mushrooms or Crimini in most dishes.

This mushroom is also known by a number of other common names, such as the Oak, Chinese or Black Forest mushroom. Originating from Japan it’s scientific name is Lentinula edodes. Shiitake can vary from very light tan to a dark brown, and they have a characteristic umbrella shaped cap, with an open veil and tan gills. Shiitake are best cooked, with a firm texture and wonderful aroma when used in any dish. Stems are very tough and should be removed and chopped finely. Perfect in pasta, soups, and in any entrée.

Oyster Mushrooms
This group of mushrooms varies by species, scientifically referred to as Pleurotus spp. The oyster mushroom comes in many different colors, ranging from white, gray, pink, and yellow, and can range in size from 1 to 3 inches. Their mild delicate flavor is most suited to cooking with chicken, veal, pork and seafood. Also try adding to soups and sauces. Small mushrooms of the colored varieties make a stunning garnish.

Care & Handling

Selecting Mushrooms:
Look for mushrooms with a fresh, smooth appearance, free from major blemishes, with a dry (not dried) surface. A closed veil (the thin membrane under the cap) indicates a delicate flavor; an open veil means a richer flavor.

Storing Mushrooms:
Keep mushrooms refrigerated. They’re best when used within several days after purchase. Do not rinse mushrooms until ready to use. To prolong shelf life, store fresh mushrooms in a porous paper bag. Always remove plastic overlay from packaged mushrooms. Avoid air tight containers- this causes moisture condensation which speeds spoilage.

Cleaning Mushrooms:
Gently wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or soft brush to remove occasional peat moss particles. Or, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Freezing Mushrooms:
Fresh mushrooms don’t freeze well. But if it’s really necessary to freeze them, first saute in butter or oil or in a non-stick skillet without fat; cool slightly, then freeze in an air tight container up to one month.

Nutritional Information:
All cultivated varieties of mushroom share much the same nutritional values. They are all low in calories, sodium-free, fat-free and cholesterol-free and part of a healthy diet. Add mushrooms to your diet for a tasty and healthy alternative to the usual.

For more mushroom information and recipes, visit www.mushroominfo.com.