Types of Mushrooms
There are many types of mushrooms in the world that can make wonderful additions to your gourmet repertoire. Mushrooms can usually be purchased fresh or dried and add a layer of rich earthiness to any dish - experiment to see which are your favorites!
Criminis are actually small portobello mushrooms. These little guys pack more flavor than their similarly shaped cousin, the white button mushroom, but are still on the low-end of the fungus price spectrum. Criminis go very well in soups and you won't find a better 'shroom to saute and pour over a hamburger.
Enokies are one of the smaller types of mushrooms. These little guys are great raw or cooked, and you'll commonly see them marinated in oil or vinegar and served as an appetizer.
These mountain mushrooms can usually be found growing on logs along snowlines, earning them the nickname "snow puff." They have several other names as well:
- Winter mushroom
- Velvet stem mushroom
Maitakes are known for both their culinary and medicinal properties. Meaty and delicate with an earthy flavor, maitake mushrooms are popular in Japanese cuisine. In Chinese medicine they are used for supplementing immune function and restoring equilibrium to the body.
This large, flowery mushroom grows in old oak trees and is also known as:
- Sheep's head mushroom
- Ram's head mushroom
- Hen of the woods
Morels are a culinary delight, and they're priced at the high end of the fungus scale. While these webby 'shrooms are expensive, their delicate earthy flavor is well worth the money. They are also known as "molly moochers" in some parts of the USA.
Note: Morels need to be cooked before eating, otherwise they are toxic.
Portobellos are large mushrooms that have a soft but earthy taste. 'Bellas are a popular meat analog for vegetarians since they are big enough to be grilled and used as an alternative to hamburgers and steaks.
The Japanese shiitake is a popular and tasty morsel. In addition to its culinary value, it's also used in Chinese medicine for its immune-boosting, antibacterial and anti-tumor properties.
Oysters have a mild taste and grow in large, gray clusters. It can commonly be found in Asian cuisines as an addition to soups, rice dishes, and stir-fries.
Common in European cuisines, the porcini is another very popular mushroom. This deep-flavored mushroom lends an earthy layer to any dish it is added to, and its distinctive aroma is a favorite of French and Italian chefs. It can be sliced into a meat dish or sauteed and served over whatever you like.
White button mushrooms are the little black dress of mushrooms. They go in everything, they're easy to find, and anyone who cooks with mushrooms uses them from time to time. Add these easy to find to stir-fries, casseroles, or soups to add a mild, earthy flavor.
These meaty, wild mushrooms have a delicate earthy flavor and a meaty texture. You'll find them mid-summer to early fall, when experienced foragers head out into the woods to grab these delicacies. Try them sauteed in butter served on top of risotto, or toss the butter sauteed mushrooms with some pasta and Parmesan cheese for a simple pasta dish.
The red flesh of the lobster mushroom looks a lot like it's crustacean namesake. In fact, lobster mushrooms aren't actually their own species of mushroom, but a species of mold that grows on another type of mushroom that gives it its characteristic color. This gives the mushrooms a meaty texture and a taste reminiscent of the delicately sweet flavor of lobster. Try it chopped up in seafood chowder.
Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
With a dense, meaty texture and an earthy, lemon-like flavor, the chicken of the woods makes a great replacement for meat in dishes. This wild mushroom is very large, and foragers prize it. Try chicken of the woods mushrooms as a replacement for the chicken to make a vegetarian version of chicken noodle soup.
Black Trumpet Mushrooms
These mushrooms are often difficult to find. Commercially, they typically show up in dried wild mushroom blends, although a trip through the farmer's market may yield some if you go at the right time. They grow in clusters on the floor of hardwood forests on the West Coast, and like the name suggests, they are black mushrooms shaped a bit like a bugle or trumpet.
These mushrooms are rich with an earthy, smoky flavor. Try them with seafood, or enjoy them sauteed in a little olive oil, garlic, and rosemary as an accompaniment to smoked or grilled meats.
Also known as "sweet tooth mushrooms," these wild mushrooms grow on the forest floor. They come in a variety of colors ranging from white to purple (the white ones are what people eat) and appear later in the year than other varieties, as late as January or February. You don't want to eat them raw - they tend to be bitter, but cooking them makes them nutty and earthy.
Add them to cream sauce and top your favorite pasta.
These wild Japanese mushrooms, which you'll also find in Washington State, are firm fleshed and meaty. They have a firm, chewy flesh (even when cooked) similar to a shiitake and an earthy, meaty flavor. Add them to stir-fries or marinade them in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger and cook quickly in oil at a high temperature before serving over rice.
If there was a poster child for what a wild mushroom would look like, it would be the gypsy mushroom. With a round, domed cap and graduated stem, the gypsy mushroom growing on a forest floor is the very image of the classic mushroom. It grows best in Northern climates. In flavor, the gypsy mushroom is mild with a surprising tang to it with a hint of cinnamon. It needs to be cooked - don't eat it raw.
Try it sauteed in a little olive oil and folded into an omelet.
Lion's Mane Mushrooms
What makes a lion's man mushroom fun is its fluffy appearance. Like its name, it appears to have a mane. The mushrooms, which grow in forests around the world, are large and need to be sliced and cooked to be eaten. They are popular in Asian cuisine and are reported to have numerous health benefits.
Many people compare the flavor to crab or lobster, so the perfect accompaniment is butter. Cook them in it, add a little salt and pepper, and enjoy.
These expensive mushrooms grow around the base of trees in forested areas. There are a few varieties, including white and black truffles that grown in the summer and winter, respectively. They have a strong, earthy, piquant flavor that is widely prized, and they add deliciousness to all kinds of dishes, from shaving them on scrambled eggs to adding them to pasta or risotto. For a less expensive alternative, you can try truffle oil.