You probably didn't know that when you eat mushrooms, you're eating fungus. Don't freak out just yet, a lot of fungus is good for you! Without yeast, for example, we wouldn't have bread. Mushrooms are thick, flavorful and a great meat replacement for “vegetarians," or people who don't eat meat.
Crimini mushrooms are actually immature Portobello mushrooms caught just in time. They have the same meaty flavor as the Portobello, but they're easier to cook. Crimini mushrooms must be caught at just the right moment. If left to grow another 48 to 72 hours, they will almost quadruple in size to become adult Portobello mushrooms. Talk about a growth spurt!
Farmers have had a hard time cultivating the morel mushroom. Hollow on the inside, the cap of the mushroom looks like brown honeycomb. Because of all their crannies and their forest home, they need to be thoroughly washed. When people want to give mushroom hunting a try, they will most likely start out in search for Morels because they're easy to spot.
Oyster mushrooms grow on trees in many forests around the world. They look a little like the shell of an oyster and have a slightly similar taste to the shellfish. They may look friendly, but Oyster mushrooms are one of the very few animal-eating mushrooms. They will feast on the bodies of dead worms and decompose them.
Porcinis are some of the best mushrooms for cooking because of their high water content and excellent taste. They start out with blonde or reddish caps that darken as the mushroom grows. A favorite dish to show off the flavor of Porcini mushrooms is called "risotto," made with rice, cheese and cream.
The Portobello mushroom goes by many different names that match its stages in life. A very young Portobello mushroom will be harvested and called the white mushroom. A mature, old Portobello will turn dark brown and end up the size of a salad plate! These mushrooms are wildly popular for grilling and are known as the vegetarian steak.
While the name makes some Americans giggle, Shitake mushrooms are gaining worldwide popularity. Originally cultivated in China 1,000 years ago, they are very easy to grow and very flavorful. Many countries are catching Shitake fever. Good thing, too, because scientists are actually researching Shitake mushrooms for their anti-cancer properties.
The Tree Ear, Wood Ear or Judas' Ear mushroom is a fungus that grows on Elm and Elder trees. The last of its names comes from the Bible, where Judas hung himself on an Elder tree. They are valuable in Chinese cooking and have a strange, floppy, rubbery texture. Mixed in with a stir-fry, though, they are quite delicious!
Truffles are a fungus that grows underground in France and Italy. However, these ugly lumps can cost around $1,000 a pound! Very flavorful, with an incredible smell, truffles are rare and prized in gourmet cooking. Truffle hunting is a booming industry and animals like pigs and dogs are trained to sniff out these gems, worth their weight in gold.
The Trumpet mushroom grows primarily in the Mediterranean region of the world. Very popular in Asian cooking, this mushroom has a thick and firm texture after cooking that makes it similar to abalone. Yeah, people really do eat abalone! This mushroom is good in a pinch because it has a long shelf life and can be kept in the pantry.