Edible Mushrooms

Image from PixaBay

No doubt, white mushrooms (also known as button mushrooms) are
yummy. Those little white fungi that you can find at nearly
every grocery store are adorable, affordable, and super
versatile for cooking. You can turn them into veggie tacos,

stroganoff
,
scrambles
,
veggie burgers
, and they are the perfect shape and size for

stuffing.
 Button mushrooms have a really mild flavor
and a pleasing texture that most palates can handle.

But we’re going to go beyond the basic button mushroom in this
article and dive into the world of wilder mushrooms. You might
find these unique beauties alongside button mushrooms at your
local store, or you may need to go further afield and seek them
at natural food stores or Asian food markets. If you’re very
adventurous, you can always plan a mushroom
hunting trip
!

We’ve foraged a list of 20 not-so-common mushroom varieties
that you can try out as a replacement for or addition to button
mushrooms. Each type of mushroom is so unique that you can move
through this whole list and never experience the same flavors
or textures twice!

How to Store Fresh Mushrooms

Look for mushrooms that are dry to the touch (not slimy) and
seem perky: no wilted stems or caps. Inspect the gills and
stems for signs of mold. Gather a few mushrooms and give them a
sniff to make sure they smell fresh, like the forest floor, and
not at all funky or musty.

When purchased, use as soon as possible, or store for a few
days. I have found the best storage is in a paper bag within a
plastic bag: the paper ensures that the mushrooms don’t get
slimy, while the plastic bag ensures they don’t get dehydrated.
However, even with this method, I’ve found that most mushrooms
are only really good for about 2-3 days. After that, the caps
and stems get wilted, and they lose their moisture. At this
point, you could dehydrate them, or use in a dish where texture
and moisture don’t matter as much, such as a pasta sauce.

Many mushrooms, including button, shiitakes, chanterelles, and
creminis, can be frozen raw or cooked. Find a great tutorial
here on The
Spruce.

1. Morel Mushrooms

Morels are a highly sought-after wild mushroom, valued not only
for their meaty and rich flavor but also their relative rarity.
These are also popular as a foraged fungi because they are
considered safer – very few other fungi look quite like the
beautiful morel. They have a mild taste that is generally
mushroomy.

Experts
recommend
choosing smaller morels that are fresh, firm, and
dry. Like all mushrooms, it’s best to avoid any morels that are
soggy or shriveled. Be sure to clean out the little holes in
the caps that allow critters to take up residence, and remove
any dirt that might be hiding. Daniel Gritzler has a very
detailed tutorial on Serious
Eats
 about choosing, cleaning, cutting, and basic
preparation of morels. Another detail to note is that morels
are best eaten cooked, since
in raw form they have some compounds that might make you a bit
sick.

Morel mushrooms have stand out
nutritional benefits
, including being high in natural
Vitamin D, high in antioxidants, and boasting liver- and
immunoprotective compounds.

2. Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini mushrooms are actually baby portobello mushrooms, but
they are different enough in flavor and texture to warrant
their own section. Creminis, similar in size, shape, and flavor
to button mushrooms, are differentiated by their light or dark
brown tops, but creamy white undersides and stems. I find that
creminis are an excellent substitute for button mushrooms, and
they add just a bit more color to a dish, like in
these California
Veggie Tacos.

Creminis have a solid texture when fresh, so they hold texture
well when thinly sliced raw for salads, or chopped and cooked
for stir-fry dishes or soups.

And regarding the health benefits, turns out these commonplace
mushrooms often beat their more exotic counterparts in
benefits: cremini mushrooms are high in conjugated
linolenic acid
that can help reduce breast cancer risk.
Preliminary studies have also shown that creminis are high in
elusive B12, as well as adding anti-inflammatory and
immune-boosting benefits to our diet.

3. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are considered one of the
tastiest
mushroom varieties, with a chewy but delicate
texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. They are also known for
their licorice or anise scent. Note that these are different
from
King Oyster Mushrooms.

Oyster mushrooms offer some unique health benefits too, notably
their
natural statin compounds,
 which are great for managing
cholesterol.  It’s also linked with anti-cancerous tumor
effects.

4. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are very common in Japanese foods, and they
can be used both fresh or dried. And unlike so many foods,
shiitakes actually have a stronger flavor when dried (and then
rehydrated).

Fresh shiitakes have a pleasantly slick texture, but a firm
bite, making them a bit of a ‘meaty’ mushroom. Personally, I
think their flavor is quite overpowering: to me, it leaves a
dank aftertaste, but these mushrooms are prized for that very
flavor, so you can ignore me. This rich flavor means they are
quite good as additions to veggie broth or stock, which is a
great use of the woody stems.

Shiitakes offer more than flavor though: they are
high
in biotin and copper (one of the most potent sources
of copper, actually), and help reduce inflammation. Shiitakes
are also high in compounds called beta-glucans, which are
excellent for digestive health.

5. Enoki Mushrooms

As a fungus-lover, I think all mushrooms are cute, but enoki
mushrooms might be the cutest. The name is cute, and their
noodle-like shape and teeny caps make them really lovable.
Their super mild flavor and crunchy yet slimy texture make them
very interesting.

Enoki mushrooms are often used in soups (like pho or ramen),
but they can also be used in stir-fry dishes, in sushi, and in
noodle dishes, where their shape and texture make it sometimes
difficult to know whether you’re eating a noodle or a mushroom!

Enoki mushrooms are often sold with their ‘base’ attached, so
you can just break off the mushrooms from the base and enjoy
raw or lightly cooked.

6. Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelles have become more common in recent years, and are
certainly one of the most interesting mushrooms. Chanterelles
are often yellow to deep orange but can also be pink. Their
flavor, according to WildEdible, is
mildly peppery with a distinct fruity apricot-like aroma. They
have limited seasonality, so grab them as soon as you see them
in markets or stores. These can be used in pastas, veggie
stir-fries, and as a meat replacement in many dishes, like
tacos.

These mushrooms don’t dehydrate well, but they do
freeze
well, and they can even be
pickled
!

These pretty mushrooms are really good for us too: they are
great sources
of protein, Vitamin D and many of the B vitamins.
Chanterelles also include a bunch of minerals like potassium,
copper, and selenium.

7. Portobello Mushrooms

One of the more common types of mushrooms on this list,
portobellos are perhaps most famous for their ability to stand
in for a burger for those who prefer vegan or vegetarian foods.
Portobellos are large mushrooms (grown-up cremini mushrooms,
actually) that have a very firm texture, which allows them to
absorb marinades and sauces well.

My favorite way to prepare portobellos is to remove the stem,
then cover with a marinade
like this one
that features balsamic vinegar, olive oil,
some mirin, and herbs. Let the mushrooms marinate a few hours
(or overnight) then roast in the oven until wilted and browned.
Serve on a bun, or sliced for sandwiches or tacos. I’ve also
used these large mushrooms as a
stuffed mushroom
, which is a spectacular dish to serve to
dinner guests.

When I can get super fresh portobellos from my farmer friend,
they are actually a bit pink on the gills, something I had
never seen before. He explained that it’s natural if they are
very fresh! But unless you know a mushroom farmer, you’re
likely buying mushrooms at the store, so be sure to choose
portobellos that are firm and dry to the touch.

The caps should be soft and rounded; if the edges of the cap
are a bit wilted, that means they are a little bit older, but
likely still good. Store the portabellos using the paper
bag/plastic bag option listed above, and use within a few days.
Sometimes you’ll find these mushrooms packed in styrofoam
containers with plastic, but the mushrooms will likely get
funky if left in this packaging since moisture can’t escape.

8. Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms are usually found in Italian foods, notably
risotto. Porcini mushrooms can be foraged fresh, or dried to be
used in various Italian-themed recipes. I remember fondly a
pizza I had in Verona, Italy, that was loaded with fresh
porcini mushrooms, fresh basil, cheese and that’s it – a lovely
culinary memory that encapsulates Italy for me! They have a
silky but firm texture that is pleasantly weird. I think that
this would be a ‘mushroom lovers’ mushroom since the texture
might turn some folks off.

Porcinis are pretty dang healthy too: they contain niacin,
potassium, selenium, and protein.

9. Black Trumpet Mushrooms

These dark, delicate mushrooms are highly sought after at
high-end restaurants and with home chefs. New
York Times
says these mushrooms add deep flavor
and meaty texture and have “a taste unlike any other mushroom,
earthy and almost smoky.” This strong flavor means they need
little in the way of additions: serve with pasta, on pizza, or
in a sauce.

Black trumpets range in harvest location from Eastern Europe to
Northern California. Not only are these little mushrooms
insanely delicious, they’re super easy to clean and prepare.
Simple dunk in water then squeeze out; they often do not even
need to be chopped.

10. Puffball Mushrooms

Puffballs are some of the wildest looking mushrooms on the
list, and they don’t look like other mushrooms. They don’t have
caps or gills, instead, they keep their spores on the inside.
These often huge white fungus monsters can be a yummy addition
to your kitchen. ForagerChef
has an excellent review of puffballs, including how to spot
them (in the forest or in fields), how to forage for them, prep
them (chop away any holes with bugs), and how to cook them (on
a grill, sautéed, turned in gravy, or used in ravioli).

11. Maitake Mushrooms (Hen of the Woods Mushrooms)

Maitake (‘dancing mushrooms’ in Japanese) are widely available
and many-named: these are often known as Hen of the Woods
mushrooms, but are sometimes called ram’s head or
sheep’s head. These mushrooms are frilly, delicate, and
beautiful. These often grow in large clusters at the base of
oak trees and can be found as small as a handful or as large as
50 pounds. Like many mushrooms, their unique flavor is best
with simple preparations, like sautéed in butter or served with
pasta, but this
Mushroom & Thyme Cheesecake
looks incredible, too.

Maitake also offers well-known
healing benefits,
including immune support, anti-cancer
properties, blood pressure and blood sugar balancing They can
also help with conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome
(CFS) and infertility caused by polycystic ovary
syndrome.

12. Straw Mushrooms (Paddy Straw Mushrooms)

These very simple mushrooms have a very beautiful
name: Volvariella volvacea.These little mushrooms,
which you’re most likely to find in Chinese, Thai, or
Vietnamese foods, grow on rice straw. Unless you’re buying them
fresh at an Asian market, the ones you are eating are canned.
While I find their slightly slick, slimy texture unappealing,
they are very common and well-loved in lots of different
recipes. And a good reason to work with them is their health
benefits:
Healthiest Foods
says these mushrooms are a good source of
fiber, protein, copper, potassium, zinc, selenium and B
vitamins.

13. Coral Mushrooms

Coral mushrooms get their name from their sea-based lookalikes.
They are another mushroom that is likely found in the wild in
the Eastern United States (seemingly not on the West Coast).
There are many varieties of coral mushrooms that should NOT be
eaten. ForagerChef
has a quick guide, but as always with mushroom
foraging
, be sure to consult an expert before eating
anything you’re not 100% sure about. Mushroom
Experts
says this fungus should smell of “faintly of newly
dug potatoes” and has a taste that is mild or peppery-acrid.

14. Matsutake Mushrooms (Pine mushrooms)

Matsutake mushrooms are highly prized for their uniquely spicy
and fragrant nature. While they grow in a range of regions,
ranging from US/Canada to Sweden to China. But they are hard to
find and offer only one harvest each year, and a persistent
nematode is endangering the pine forests in Japan where the
mushroom thrives. All of these conditions mean that matsutake
mushrooms are often quite expensive. Mycological
Society of San Francisco
has great suggestions for making
the most of this mushroom by using it with grains, in sauce,
and more.

15. Honey Mushrooms (Honey Fungus)

Honest Food has a great
account of how to identify mushrooms, which he did with
precision to find these special honey mushrooms. While these
are not very popular in North America, they apparently have
quite a history in Eastern Europe. He writes, “Apparently honey
mushrooms are not well thought of in the mushroom world.
Mediocre was the universal report. Slimy, remarked
another. Then I read that the Russians, Poles and Ukrainians
loved these things, and that there is a
traditional pierogi
made in Ukraine with honey mushrooms.”
To dig deeper, read MSSF’s account
of the flavors (mildly-sweet) and texture (gelatinous) of these
wild mushrooms.

16. Beech Mushrooms (Shimeji or Bunshimeji Mushrooms)

The Japanese market near my house carries these mushrooms, and
I love experimenting with them. Like maitake mushrooms, they
grow in clumps, and the tiny mushrooms often fall off in your
hands, making preparation really simple. There are a few
varieties of beech mushrooms to use (white beech mushrooms are
known as bunapi shimeji and brown beech mushrooms known as buna
shimeji), but I find their flavor to be the same – which is
actually quite bland. But what they lack in flavor they make up
for in cuteness and texture, which is firm and pleasant.
Hokto-Kinoko
has a great explanation of the health benefits (Vitamin D! B12!
Niacin! Fiber!) and how to prepare and cook these little
mushrooms

17. King Trumpet Mushrooms (Eryngii Mushrooms)

These are very different than Trumpet mushrooms (#9 on our
list) in both flavor and texture. I find the texture of King
Trumpets to be very firm, almost ‘squeaky’ against your teeth.
They are so firm that they are ideally cooked in small pieces
so as not to overwhelm the mouth. In fact, they are so
toothsome that they can be used to replace/replicate meat in
many dishes. These are often found packaged in Asian markets
and can be cooked in many different ways. These are another
super
healthy mushroom
to add to your diet and can be used in a
range of
recipes
.

18. Lobster Mushrooms

Named for their wild color and
flavor
that resembles their Crustacean
namesake. Lobsters can be found in the wild, usually in
old-growth forests in North America from July to October. The
size of
the lobster mushroom varies, depending on the size of the host
mushroom. On average they are about 15 – 20cm (6 – 8”) tall.
They grow differently than other mushrooms, and are actually,
“an example of a mold attacking a mushroom. Hypomyces
lactifluorum
 attacks and parasitizes Lactarius
piperatus
 or Russula brevipes and
covers the entire fruit body with an orange skin.” A truly WILD
mushroom!

19. Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

This wild mushroom is considered one of the ‘fool-proof
four
‘, a group of wild edible mushrooms that is easily
identifiable and generally safe to eat. These are not to be
confused with Hen of the Woods or Maitake mushrooms (#11 on our
list). This mushroom can be found in the Summer or Fall, and
can range in both color (bright orange, bright yellow, and down
to white when they are older) and size (a good tree can yield a
bunch up to 50 pounds). The young Chicken of the Woods is
“succulent”
and has a mild flavor (some saying it does, in fact,
taste like chicken
), but it can turn sour when older. Since
these mushrooms can be quite large, you can find how to prepare
and use all parts of it here on
Mushroom Appreciation
.

20. Wood Ear Mushrooms (Cloud Ear Mushrooms)

Wood Ear mushrooms are what’s considered a jelly fungus, and if
you’ve even eaten hot and sour soup you’re probably had these
slightly slick fungi, which resembles wakame visually and
texturally. Wood ear mushroms don’t have much flavor, but are
nice carriers of flavor for soups, sauces, or curries. These
mushrooms are dark or medium brown in color (and black with
age), and have a unique shape that is “gill-less
[and] are somewhat cup-shaped, with a thick, smooth, wavy cap
and almost no stem. The color of the skin often takes on the
color of the tree that it grows on.” These are often found
dried, and can be reconstituted in hot water before using.


Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by
signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign
up!