Also known as “fruits of the woods,” a mushroom is technically the fruiting body of a fungus. Although contrary to popular conception, what ends up on your plate doesn’t necessarily come from the forest – many of the mushrooms we know of as “wild” are actually cultivated on farms.
The most common domesticated mushroom is the button mushroom. They frequently come in blue, shrink-wrapped Styrofoam packaging at the supermarket and are identifiable by their white, round cap. Though delicious by themselves, their flavor is notably improved when cooked with other species of mushrooms.
Second in commonality to the button mushroom, the Portobello mushroom has a much better flavor. Though it sports a fancy name, the Portobello mushroom is actually a giant version of the common, brown crimini mushroom. This domesticated brown mushroom features prominent brown gills on the underside of its cap, and chefs especially appreciate this fungi when it is grilled, sautéed, or roasted.
Porcini mushrooms are often thought of as the most desirable because of their meaty texture and spectacular flavor. Commonly used in soups, pasta, and risotto, the porcini mushroom is widely distributed in Europe and Asia and has recently been gaining prominence in the United States. Notably, though it is sold commercially, the porcini mushroom has not been successfully cultivated, so it is still harvested from forests and tree plantations across Europe before being dried and shipped around the world.
Keep an eye out for the mushrooms featured this week!