In the beginning, the only mushrooms
available were those picked in the wild. Not until almost the beginning
of the nineteenth century were the first mushrooms cultivated on a
large scale. It was the French who first entered the market with the
white mushroom (champignon de Paris) we are familiar with today,
although the brown or cremini variety was soon grown on a commercial
scale as well.
Since those early days, other varieties have become increasingly
available. Look for these fresh mushrooms vegetables in your market or specialty
White mushrooms vegetables are the crisp, white fungi most commonly found and are
what many people consider to be mushrooms. They have a very delicate
flavor and range in size from "button" (about 1/2 inch in diameter) to
large caps more than 2 inches wide. These cultivated mushrooms are
available all year long.
The fresh brown mushroom (cremini) is a close relative of the common white
mushroom. Light brown in color, with a slightly more robust flavor,
they are available in the same sizes as and are virtually
interchangeable with white mushrooms. Like white mushrooms, cremini are
cultivated and are available all year long.
Portabella mushrooms vegetables are cremini mushrooms that have grown into very
large fungi. The texture is called steak like, and the flavor is
delicious. Thick slices can be grilled, and whole caps can be basted
with olive oil and garlic, roasted over indirect coals, and served in
pace of meat. Portabella mushrooms are available all year long.
Shiitake (Asian black) mushrooms vegetables have flat, brown caps with dark
undersides and thin, woody stems that should be discarded as they are
usually too tough to eat. The hearty texture and robust flavor that
often has a slight garlicky overtone make them wonderful in stir-fries,
ragouts, and gratins. Wild until recently, shiitakes are now cultivated
and available year around.
Enoki mushrooms vegetables are tiny, snowy white, button candy-size caps on long
thin stems. These are very delicately flavored morsels with a crisp
texture a little like bean sprouts. Do not buy any that are slimy or
wet. I think they are best eaten raw, just barely heated or dropped as
a garnish into soups. These are also cultivated and are available year
Oyster mushrooms (pleurottes) have white to beige caps with a very
silky texture. The flavor is even more delicate than white mushrooms
but is delicious, with slight shellfish overtones, hence the name. They
are especially good in combination with other varieties. Oyster
mushrooms are now cultivated and can be found year round in some areas.
Wood ear (cloud ear) mushrooms have large, dark brown, sometimes almost
black, frilly caps with a curious, crisp but slightly gelatinous
texture. These are the mushrooms so often used in Asian dishes.
Hen-of the-woods, a shelf like mushroom vegetables, appear in flat, beige, stemless clusters (usually on tree trunks) and has a rich flavor that
is wonderful in ragouts. While these are not universally available,
they are common enough from midsummer through the first frost to look
for and are well worth trying. These are wild for the most part, though
some are now being cultivated.
Cepes (boletes, porcini, Steinpiltz) are pretty, classically shaped
fungi with dark brown caps. Until recently these were strictly wild,
harvested by independent pickers. A limited supply is now being
cultivated. Look for them in specialty stores. Their flavor is rich and
delicious. Sliced, or not if small, and sauteed with garlic, parsley,
and olive oil, they are food for the gods. If these are being harvested
in the wild, they are most available in summer up through October. They
are excellent dried.
Chanterelles are another wild mushroom vegetables that is finally being cultivated
in small amounts. These frilly, horn-shaped, pale-orange fungi with
thin stems are some of the most sought after for both restaurants and
private homes. In season, these are prepared in myriad ways, even added
to scrambled eggs. The flavor is rich and full without being
overpowering, and the texture is slightly less tender than most
cultivated mushrooms. Look for them from midsummer until the end of
October or a little later.
Morels are wonderful, almost black, nutty flavored conical mushrooms
with a honeycomb surface. Classically served in rich sauces with thick
cuts of beef, they are also delicious with game or served in a cream
sauce over crisp triangles of toast. These wild, early spring mushrooms
are extremely difficult to find fresh. They are available dried all
year long. While they are very expensive, dried morels are excellent
once they are re-hydrated and can be used in any recipe calling for
Mushrooms vegetables are a good source of vitamin B and contain fair amounts of