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Mushrooms

Mushrooms

These versatile, cap-shaped fungi enliven any salad, stew, soup, roast, casserole or hors d'oeuvre with a rich, earthy flavor.

Nutritional Highlights

  • Portobello mushrooms, (exposed to UV light) are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, a nutrient that helps maintain strong bones and aids in calcium absorption.  It’s the UV light that makes the difference as you find any vitamin D in most mushrooms.
  • One cup (about 85 g) of the white or "button" variety of mushrooms is also a good source of niacin and riboflavin, which are B vitamins that help your body release energy from the foods you eat.

History

Believe it or not, these tasty fungi only caught on in the U.S. in the past few centuries. Prior to that time, they were consumed in medieval France and (even before that) prized by ancient Egyptian and Chinese peoples. Today, however, mushrooms are an American mainstay, enriching the flavor and nutrient content of all sorts of savory recipes.

Varieties

Dozens of edible mushrooms are cultivated in the U.S. If you're hoping to buy mushrooms at your local supermarket, here are the varieties you're most likely to find:

  • White, or "button": Far and away the most common kind of pre-packaged mushroom, this variety is small and white with a mild flavor that becomes bolder with cooking. These mushrooms can be found on pizzas and in salads, casseroles,  pasta and risottos.
  • Italian Brown, or "Crimini": Similar to white mushrooms, these have a dusty brown hue and a richer flavor.
  • Morels: These oddly shaped mushrooms have a strong, earthy flavor (and somewhat heftier price tag). Morels are cone-shaped with a honeycomb-textured cap, and they're usually used in stews, stuffing or sauces.
  • Shiitake: First cultivated in Japan, Shiitake mushrooms have wide, blackish-brown caps and a crisp, rich flavor, making them great for stir frys.
  • Portobello: A giant variety of mushroom, Portobellos are often as broad as your hand! With their mild flavor and chewy texture, these mushrooms can be grilled or roasted and served as a meat substitute.

When are Mushrooms in Season?

These fungi reach their natural peak around late fall or early winter. However, most mushrooms are now cultivated indoors, meaning you can get them pre-packaged whenever you like.

How to Choose Mushrooms

Whether they're loose or packaged, fresh mushrooms should have an even color and few bruises. Good mushrooms will be firm and undamaged, with no soft spots. Avoid any that are beginning to grow a bluish fuzz, which indicates that the mushrooms are moldy.

How to Store Mushrooms

The best way to keep mushrooms fresh is to refrigerate them in their original package or (if bought loose) in an unsealed paper bag. Don't seal mushrooms in plastic, since this can cause them to spoil quickly, as can washing them at any time other than right before eating.

How to Cook with Mushrooms

Beside the word "versatile" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of a mushroom. These little fungi can be prepared so many ways! You can stew them, stir-fry them, bake them into casseroles or pizzas, steam them or serve them raw, either chopped, diced or whole. Simply wash them first to rinse away any dirt from the caps and stems.

Key Measurements

Most recipes call for either

  • A cup of mushrooms (chopped)
  • An eight-ounce package's worth, or
  • A few individual mushrooms.

Substitutions

Nothing can quite replace their earthy taste, but for texture, you can get away with using firm tofu instead. However, if you're simply looking to replace one kind of mushroom with another, then have fun experimenting with different varieties!

mushrooms in recipes

Wild Mushroom Pizza is quite the party favorite, especially when topped with a little Parmesan.

For a quick skillet meal, it's hard to beat Mushroom and Spinach Fettuccine.

And if you want an explosion of flavor without all the fat, try these Healthified Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms. We guarantee they won't stay on an hors d'oeuvres platter for long!

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