Whether it is to upgrade the taste of your entrée and take it to a whole new level or to make your creamy soup yummier by adding little chunks of it, mushrooms are the most sophisticated ingredient people love on a menu. Gone are the days when you could only see the most popular – and maybe the most over-emphasized – white button mushroom in the grocery store near you. Now that the grocery stores have also added the meaty shiitake mushroom and the golden oyster mushrooms to their aisles, why not try them and tease your taste buds like never before?
If you love mushrooms and want to know about their different types, you have landed on the right place. Let’s get started.
What Are Mushrooms in Reality?
The mushrooms are classified as fungi, not falling either in plants or animals. Mushrooms – unlike other plants – thrive on the trees and roots. That is the reason why you can find a lot of mushroom growth in various gardens. However, most of the mushrooms are considered lethal, while only up to 5% of them being edible. So, if you have any daring plans to try out mushrooms on your own, here is a piece of advice: please do not!
Health and Nutrition Value of the Mushrooms
As much as they taste divine, the mushrooms are rich in nutrition that cannot be found in other vegetables or meat. They might not be a delicious sight to look at, as compared to the fresh green leafy veggies we die for to put in our healthy salad, the mushrooms are often considered as the powerhouse of nutrition.
Mushrooms are low in calories – perfect for putting tabs on those uncontrollable and ever-growing stomach tires – and absolutely cholesterol-free. Most of them are considerably rich in fiber and a number of minerals and vitamins such as magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. So, the next time you are making yourself a healthy salad with all the leafy greens and chickpeas and all, throw in some Enoki mushrooms to get the real kick.
Although no causal relationship could be proved, studies do indicate that high consumption of mushrooms results in a decreased risk of developing breast cancer and dementia.
Also, mushrooms are known to have immense power of strengthening your immune system. Mushrooms, when exposed to sunlight, become rich in vitamin D. They are among the very few food ingredients that provide Vitamin D.
Different Types of Mushrooms
Native to the East Asian countries, this type of mushroom is the most valuable source of Vitamin D, potassium, and niacin – it is packed with a lot of health benefits. Shiitake mushrooms grow mainly in Japan, China, and Korea. They are a significant part of Asian cuisines, especially the Japanese cuisines. Their savory taste makes them taste almost like meat, and they also replace meat in various dishes. Plus, their taste doubles up when added to pasta and soups.
They appear to have a woody brown color with their curved stems resembling tree bark. You cannot have shiitake mushrooms raw you need to cook them before eating and clean them thoroughly by removing their woody stems.
Shimeji mushrooms are well-known for their delicate flavor and amazing health benefits. They have a nutty taste with a slightly sweet tinge. Whether it is a bowl of soup or stir-fried noodles, or your perfect ramen, the Shimeji mushrooms taste the best if cooked in their own water. They are chewy and wonderfully melt in your mouth when you simmer them in white sauce.
White Button Mushrooms
The most common type of mushroom you will find in most of the grocery stores is the white button mushroom. They are like white buttons – just like their names and have a mild taste to them. They are equally delectable if eaten raw but slightly simmering or sautéing them brings out the best in them.
They offer a lot of health benefits, including cancer prevention, by protecting our cells from DNA damage.
These types of mushrooms look similar to white button mushrooms, but they are brown in color. They are also known as baby Bellas – possibly because they are also sold as baby portobellos. They taste almost exactly like the white button mushrooms but have a heartier and deeper flavor. They go extremely well with all types of pasta.
Aptly resembling flower petals, the chanterelle mushrooms mostly have a striking golden color. They are peppery in taste and can add a lot of flavor to your entrée. Chanterelle mushrooms pair up exceptionally well with eggs and can make your breakfast sophisticated and healthy. They have a longer shelf life than other types of mushrooms.
These types of mushrooms contain more moisture than others, so they are usually cooked – mostly sautéed – with dry ingredients such as garlic and thyme. They release their own water during cooking that is enough to soften them.
Chanterelle mushrooms offer several health benefits due to different biological components present in them. Some of these benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant properties, healthy liver, etc.
You can easily spot this one out from far away. It has a honeycomb texture with a stem. It might not be the most attractive mushroom compared to others, but it is worth going for. Once you get over its looks and go for its taste, you will discover that it is surprisingly filled with an earthy flavor with a touch of smoked veal.
Pertaining to its strong flavor, the morel mushrooms are usually paired with meaty gravies. Morels are also highly delectable when stir-fried – rendering crispy fried bites of exploding flavors.
Its health benefits include superb antioxidant properties, promotes strong bones and teeth, etc.
Read more here.
With its cap fully grown, you can call these a more mature form of the button mushrooms. They are similar in taste to the button mushrooms. So, if you are familiar with the taste of white button mushrooms, you are sure going to love these. They also have a meaty texture which is highlighted when they are grilled.
They are large as compared to other types of mushrooms, and that is why they are perfectly suited to be grilled. They make the yummiest low-carb buns.
You can add them to your meals as they offer several health benefits, such as they may lower the risk of cancer, contain anti-inflammatory properties, protect against neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s disease, etc.
With pristine white long stems and little white caps, the Enoki is one of the most sophisticated looking mushrooms. If you find them at your grocery store, you might mistake them for sprouts. They work well with fresh salads. Moreover, Japanese cuisines cherish the Enoki mushrooms.
You can have them raw or sauté them with prawns. Their taste multiplies when they are stir-fried. They have long been recognized for their numerous health benefits, nutritional value, and delicious taste.
Read a study on their health-promoting properties here.
These mushrooms do not look like the usual varieties of mushrooms. They are one of the most easily cultivated mushrooms and are thus the most affordable ones. If you cook them, you will find that they have an anise-like flavor. Plus, they offer a natural and sweet flavor that enhances when you sauté them with butter.
Oyster mushrooms are not just tasty but healthy too. Their health benefits are enjoyed and appreciated in Asian cuisines for hundreds of years. They are anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, cholesterol-lowering, etc.
Porcini mushrooms look like the Portobello and are a favorite ingredient of Italian dishes. Their taste is basically nutty and creamy. They can be found as small as an inch to as large as 10 inches. Porcini mushrooms are not available in the whole form only; they are sold in dried and canned forms as well. If you buy them in dried form, they need to be soaked in hot water for a while before you can start devouring it in your favorite entrée.
If you want to turn your fettuccini pasta into a chef-style dish, add porcini sauce and see the magic. Among its numerous health benefits, the top ones are immune system support, anticancer properties, antioxidant properties, etc.
These fan-shaped beauties are also known as hen of the woods. They are eye-candy to the esthetic eye. They have a perfect golden-brown color with an aroma that is woodsy and meaty. They are very rich in flavor as well as offer a great number of health benefits.
Maitake in Japanese translates to the ‘dancing mushrooms’. They are perfect for stir-fried mushrooms as they hold their shape well after cooking.
They are very similar in appearance to the Enoki mushrooms, but have brown caps on long white stems. They have a sweet taste with a crunchy texture. They go perfectly well with soups as well as stir-fried dishes.
King Trumpet Mushrooms
King trumpet mushrooms are enormous and have a taste that is similar to the oysters. You can savor them with their stems (just chop off the very end of them). Their taste is heavenly with crunchy stems. Because of their large size, they can be easily grilled just like the Portobello mushrooms.
Last but the not least, Truffles are also one of the most renowned mushrooms. They are technically not considered as mushrooms (it is still being debated upon as they grow under the ground unlike other mushrooms) but are the most delectable fungi ever. They have a wrinkled shape with delicate taste and a pungent smell. They are more towards the pricier side as compared to the other mushrooms.
The Healthiest Way to Have Mushrooms
Technically, mushrooms have a savory flavor that is similar to meat. This is the reason why there is an excellent shift in the consumption of mushrooms as more and more people who avoid meat are replacing it with mushrooms it has the same taste and better nutritional value.
That being said, it is better not to mix mushrooms with meat. They pair up amazingly with salads and omelets. Because they have a smooth, creamy texture to it and are rich in nutrients, the healthiest way to cook them is to be mindful of cheese or oil you might be adding. If you add something obnoxiously heavy in fat, then the whole point of having a healthy diet goes in vain.
How to Buy Mushrooms
There is no long list of points guiding you to get your hands on fresh and crisp mushrooms. However, there are certain general points you should be aware of.
Although, buying mushrooms off of a shelf from the grocery store is no science, but you should be careful of the mildew and mold. If your mushrooms give off a musty smell instead of a deep woodsy scent, then you are better off without them.
You should always consider how fresh the mushrooms look when buying. If they appear even a tad bit wilted or darkened to you then move on to another. Though all mushrooms differ in their crisp appearances, none of them are supposed to be limp or squishy.
Cleaning the Mushrooms
Cleaning mushrooms is not a big deal if you keep one aspect in mind – the mushrooms are like sponges, ready to absorb water whenever the two come in contact. This is the main reason why mushrooms should always be washed just before using them. Mostly, you can clean the mushrooms by patting them with a damp cloth or towel.
However, to clean them thoroughly, you can always wash them with cold water. For best results, put mushrooms in a basin of cold water and wash them off quickly. As soon as you are done washing them, dry the water by straining them with the help of a colander and putting them on a paper towel.
Storing the Mushrooms
For the same reason that mushrooms absorb a lot of water, they should always be stored in a paper bag wrapped in paper towels. Never store the mushrooms in a plastic bag as it will spoil them quicker, make them more watery, and decrease their shelf life.
Different Ways of Cooking Mushrooms
Simmering the mushrooms before you toss them into your salad is essential. This will soften them a bit, make them blend easily in your marinade, and absorb the taste.
Clean your mushrooms and put them in a large pot of water with a pinch of sea salt to simmer for at least 3 to 5 minutes or until they are softened enough. Drain your mushrooms, and they are ready to be used in your perfect marinade of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, vinegar, Italian herbs, and a dash of sea salt.
Sautéing the mushrooms is the best way to have them. It preserves their nutritious value and also gives the most delicious aroma to your dish. The process involves tossing your favorite selected mushrooms into the pan with heated oil. Make sure to slice your mushrooms thin because thin slices absorb more taste and can be sautéed easily.
No need to add water while cooking mushrooms this way as they release water in the beginning, which is enough to soften them a bit. The result will have you staring at a delicious tray of sautéed mushrooms with a crisp brown outer layer that is tasty enough to die for.
Grilling the mushrooms is yet another way of devouring the salty and creamy taste of this delicious food. Portobello mushrooms are the best options for grilling – majorly due to their large size and meaty flavor. You have to clean the Portobello mushrooms thoroughly by washing them, removing their stem, and getting rid of the gills on their inside.
A classic sauce of olive oil, garlic cloves, sea salt, and black pepper is enough to bring out the sophisticated yet simple taste out of the Portobello mushrooms. Coat the mushrooms with the sauce and add to the hot grilling pan where you can let them grill away till grill marks appear.
Mushrooms are one of the most exotic ingredients that the chefs all over the world use. A dash of sautéed mushrooms in your salad or a handful of simmered mushrooms dipped in the mushroom sauce over perfectly grilled steak converts your ordinary dishes into restaurant-style dishes. Apart from their delectable savory taste, mushrooms offer a hoard of nutrients including Vitamin B, minerals, etc.
They are also the perfect healthy substitute for meat. The rich earthy taste of mushrooms is worth the price and effort it takes to buy the different types of mushrooms.