Mushrooms are typically lumped together with vegetables in the grocery section but to those in the know, they’re actually fungi. They’re classified as macrofungi or fungi that have fruiting structures that can be seen with the naked eye. Mushrooms can either be wild or cultured, with wild mushrooms fetching a higher premium as they’re much harder to come by and are purportedly more flavorful than their cultivated counterparts. As a rule of thumb, unless you’re certain or if you’ve studied mushroom identification techniques extensively. Mushrooms are rich in “umami” taste which gives a hint of meatiness and amplifies the taste of the dish.
- While mushrooms are usually substituted for meat or added to meat dishes, they’re actually quite low in protein but high in carbohydrates called “Chitin”.
- Even though mushrooms are technically not vegetables, they’re still ranked as one of the top 3 most popular vegetables in both Great Britain and the United States.
- Mushrooms have no leaves, no roots, no seeds, and do not require light for growth.
- The largest living organism on earth is a fungus in Oregon that covers more than 2,200 acres and is growing every day.
- Mushrooms are mostly water with many various types consisting of almost 90% water.
Mushroom Buying Guide
Not all mushrooms are alike, this was a lesson I first learned when I was a budding chef and I was told to buy Portobello mushrooms and I came back with cremini mushrooms. Suffice to say that I’ve learned my lesson and will never repeat that mistake ever again.
To help you avoid mushroom buying mistakes, we’re going to go over the most common types of mushrooms you can find on store shelves or in farmers’ markets.
- Shiitake Mushrooms – This is one of the most famous mushrooms due to their meaty and chewy taste. They’re available in both dried and fresh forms. They can be brown or tan in color and they’re usually around 2 inches in diameter.
- Cremini Mushrooms – These are white button mushrooms that are further in the maturation age. Think of cremini mushrooms as beef while white button mushrooms as veal, both the same, yet different. Cremini mushrooms are browner in color, “meatier” in texture, and has a deeper flavor than white button mushrooms.
- Morel Mushrooms – These are unmistakable in appearance as they look like a honeycomb on a stick with a deep brown color. Morels are incredibly difficult to cultivate on a large scale so most of the morels you can find are picked wild by expert mushroom pickers.
- Oyster Mushrooms – These are unmistakable in supermarket shelves as these are the giants of edible mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms have an extremely chewy and spongy texture which will remind people of squid but with a more meaty and smoky flavor.
- Enoki Mushrooms – These are one of my personal favorites. They’re thin and long and are usually bundled together and attached at the roots. They look like noodles and are usually used as noodle replacements due to their chewy texture and mild taste.
- White Button Mushrooms – These are the baby version of the cremini mushroom and they’re very early in their life stage. These are the most consumed mushroom type in the United States with over 90% of the consumption being white button mushrooms.
- Portobello Mushrooms – If white button mushrooms are the babies, portobellos are the grandfathers. These are the same type of mushrooms as the white button mushrooms but at a very late stage in their development. These are usually sold just as the caps with the stems cut off. These are bigger, wider, and darker than white button mushrooms and morels, and they have a deeper and richer flavor as well.
Mushroom Production & Farming in Texas
As USDA statistician Esmerelda Dickson put it, “We found the one thing Texas is not big in: Mushrooms” While wholesale mushroom production in Texas isn’t as large as other states, there are some notable mushroom producers in the state that sends their mushrooms all over the state and all over the United States. There are also several mycological societies in Texas that aim to promote small-scale mushroom production for farmsteads and homes. These mycological societies also educate people on how to identify and forage wild mushrooms all around the state.
Efforts like these make wild and cultivated mushrooms available in many farmers’ markets and specialty stores.
Mushrooms come in many packaging types depending on the variety. Some mushrooms like enoki mushrooms are packed in plastic bags. Oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms, and Portobello mushrooms are usually packed in rigid plastic or biodegradable trays with a thin cling plastic wrap or plastic covering to protect the surface.
Different types of mushrooms call for different cooking methods. But as a general rule, mushrooms can be sautéed, grilled, broiled, roasted, steamed, and even made into chips. See the specific mushroom entry here in the promptuary for specific eating tips for specific mushrooms.
For purchased mushrooms, it’s best to keep them in their original packaging in the fridge. If they’re already out of their original packaging, try placing them in a paper bag and store in the fridge and they should keep for a week.
To freeze mushrooms, it’s best to pre-cook them and freeze the finished dish instead.
Quick Garlic Mushroom Stir-Fry:
Here’s a simple recipe that should have everyone at the table ask for more, even if they don’t like the taste of mushrooms.
Cremini or White Button Mushrooms, 500g (Cremini for a richer flavor, white button if you prefer a lighter tasting dish)
Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
Chopped onion, 1 small bulb
Minced Garlic, 5 cloves
Chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons
Unsalted Butter, 4 tablespoons
Herbs of Choice, chopped
Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove dirt and debris, and give them a quick rinse under cool running water just before cooking. Slice to around 1-2cm thickness, whichever thickness you choose, make sure to make them as uniform as possible.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions.
Once the onions have softened, add the garlic and the mushrooms and saute until golden and crispy on the edges.
Add herbs of choice and continue to cook until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve while warm.
When Are Mushrooms in Season in Texas?
One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas.