Mushroom is a type of fungus (a plant with neighter chlorophyll nor flowers) generally found growing in cool damp places in woodland and meadows, where the soil is rich in humus. A mushroom usually consists of a stalk and an umbrella-shaped cap. There are known over ten thousand mushroom varieties today and around two thousand are edible but only 20 are commercially cultivated.
Edible mushrooms are found all over the world and have been a very honored food in many cultures. Ancient Egyptians considered mushrooms to be food for the royals.
It's believed that the first intencional mushroom cultivation occured in China around the VI century. Today China is the world's largest edible mushroom producer. The country produces about half of all cultivated mushrooms, and around 2.7 kilograms of mushrooms is consumed per year by over a billion people. In Europe mushroom cultivation can be traced back to around the 1600s but it wasn’t until the 18th century in France that modern mushroom cultivation techniques began to form.

Mushroom Benefits:
Mushrooms contain about 80 to 90 percent water, and are very low in calories (only 100 cal/oz). They have very little sodium and fat, and 8 to 10 percent of the dry weight is fiber. Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. They are a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. The latest findings show that white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. An extract of white button mushrooms decreased cell proliferation and decreased tumor size in a dose-dependent manner. Shiitake mushrooms have been used for centuries by the Chinese and Japanese to treat colds and flu. Lentinan, a beta-glucan isolated from the fruiting body of shiitake mushrooms, appears to stimulate the immune system, help fight infection, and demonstrates anti-tumor activity.

Types of Edible Mushrooms:

Agaricus (White or Button)
These mushrooms are the most common variety prepackaged in supermarkets; available fresh, canned, or frozen. White mushrooms are mildly flavored, are tasty when eaten raw but even more flavorful when cooked.

Chanterelles, or Girolle
These trumpet shaped fungi are highly regarded mushrooms favored for their gold to yellow color, and rich flavor, ranging from apricot to earthier tasting. Chanterelles are best eaten fresh, although they are also available dried or canned.

Crimini, or Italian Brown
These mushrooms are similar to the button variety, yet they are darker in color, have a richer flavor, and have a more dense texture. Criminis were once an imported mushroom but are now grown domestically.

Enoki, or Enokitake
This fungi takes on a sproutlike appearance with small caps and thin, long, stems. Native to Japan, white in color, with a light fruity taste, these mushrooms are excellent when served raw in soups and salads.

These mushrooms are highly priced and highly prized for their intense earthly flavor. They are usually found in the wild, although can now be grown commercially. This conical shaped, honey combed surface fungi is small, with dark brown hues, is suitable for stuffing and is ideal for sauces and stews.

Oyster, or Pleurotus
These mushrooms grow in clusters, and range in color from off-white to shades of brown. Subtly tasting like an oyster, its chewy texture is more suited to cooked dishes.

Porcini mushrooms are well valued for their meaty texture, interesting flavor, and distinguishing shape. These mushrooms vary in size and is domestically grown or imported from Europe depending on the season. This variety is usually expensive, but is considered one of the finest-tasting mushrooms.

These are large cremini-like mushrooms that are sometimes the size of a regular hamburger! These fungi are circular, flat, and long, with a dense, chewy texture. Portobellos are excellent for grilling or roasting.

Shiitake mushrooms were originally cultivated on natural oak logs and only grown in Japan, but are now available domestically. These mushrooms are large, black-brown, and have an earthy rich flavor. This fungi is enjoyed in stir-fries, soups, or even a meat substitute. Dried Shiitakes have more intense flavors.

Truffles, tuber aestivum, are fungi that grow underground in wooded areas. They have never been successfully cultivated and are even a challenge to forage in the wild. Dogs or pigs are specially trained to recognize the scent of the truffle and are taken on gathering events to sniff them out. The shape of a truffle is an irregular spheroid with a lumpy surface, often described as warty, the texture fleshy. Black truffles from France, known as Perigord, are best known for flavoring pate de foie gras. White truffles gathered in Alba, Italy, are highly valued as well. Both are priced well out of affordability for the average person's budget.

Cooking with mushrooms:

Mushrooms are available all year long and although there are many different varieties, selecting any kind of mushrooms are easy. You should look for firm, moisture-free (not dry), unblemished caps, and free of mold. Airtight plastic bags tend to retain moisture and will accelerate spoilage. Properly stored mushrooms will last for approximate five days.

Clean mushrooms only when you are ready to use them. Remove any bits of the debris on the surface, rinse with cold running water or gently wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth, paper towel, or soft brush.

Some mushrooms can be eaten raw, like the white and crimini. Others need to be cooked.

If you're using dried mushrooms you'll need to soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 20-30 minutes, rinse, then chop, and use. Saving the soaking water and adding it to your sauces or soups will intensify the mushroom flavor.

Check out this recipe of Polenta with mushrooms

And this book of Chef Paulo Siqueira a friend of mine who is a mushroom expert!

No comments: