Mushrooms – a polarizing food that elicits either love or hate in most people. Personally, I am a huge mushroom advocate. They have a savory, umami flavor that adds a lot of depth and richness to a dish without breaking the bank. Neither plant or animal, this substance known as a variety of fungus, comes in multiple different shapes, sizes and color. With more than 10 000 kinds, examples include button mushrooms, cremini, enoki, portobello, porcini, chanterelle, shiitake, oyster, etc. Depending on your preferences, you can select a mushroom perfect for the dish you make. Let’s explore some common kinds you can find in your grocery store:
- Button: One of the most common mushrooms and readily available in grocery stores, the white mushroom is mild in flavor; making them extremely versatile. You can often see them on pizzas, in pasta sauces, sliced on salads, added to omelets or served as a side on top of a steak.
- Cremini: Creminis are button mushrooms that are harvested at a later date, making them slightly more flavorful than the latter. While they look almost identical to white mushrooms, an easy way to distinguish the two is the brown colored cap of a cremini. Try adding them to all the same dishes you would use button mushrooms for but if you want a slightly stronger earthy flavor.
- Portobello: The older, larger, and more robust cremini mushroom are a fan-favorite for their strong earthy taste and meaty texture. The large caps make them ideal for grilling or stuffing for a great appetizer.
- Oyster: Not as well-known as the former three, these mushrooms are a must-try for anyone looking to compliment dishes with specific flavor profiles. For example, pink oysters have hints of bacon/ham; blue oysters have seafood undertones; yellow oysters have a slight cinnamon/citrus flavor and phoenix oysters resemble star d’anise. With a “meaty” texture they are also ideal candidates for anyone looking to a plant-based dish.
- Shiitake: My personal favorite, these mushrooms are for anyone looking to add strong umami flavors since they have deep, earthy and buttery qualities. They are a great sautéed and if you really want to pack a punch, try using their dried variety!
Now, if I haven’t already sold you on giving mushrooms a try, then maybe the following facts will change your mind:
- Mushrooms are a source of D & B vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, selenium, copper and potassium.
- Mushrooms are composed of 80-90% water, making them a low-energy and flavorful ingredient to bulk up dishes needing a savory component
- Mushrooms are a great addition to vegetarian dishes as they provide an umami quality due to a substance known as glutamate, an amino acid found in cheese, meats and fish.
Looking for some tasty mushroom dishes to give a try:
- Hungarian mushroom soup: Hungarian Mushroom Soup | The Modern Proper
- One-pot white wine mushroom and leek pasta: Mushroom and Leek Pasta with White Wine Sauce (foodandwine.com)
- BBQ mushroom pizza: Barbecue Mushroom Pizza Recipe | Food Network Kitchen | Food Network
- Tofu mushroom stir fry: Tofu Stir-Fry | Feasting At Home
Harvard TH Chan. (2022, March 2). Mushrooms. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/mushrooms/