Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungus and come in all manner of sizes, shapes and colours each with their own unique flavour. Typically fungi feed on the decomposing organic material in soil or substrate and emerge with the mushroom in order to distribute spores. The name predominantly refers to varieties and species which are gilled, the fine walled structures contained in the head or cap.
Quite often you'll find them growing wild or even at home in the garden, pots or lawns, although most can be poisonous so best not to eat these. For human consumption, it's always best to use those that are cultivated and sold at vegetable retailers.
Best known to most is the 'button' mushroom or champignons that are small, round and whitish with a short stem. There are many others available that include oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, portabello, cremini, pine, morel, porcini and enoki to name but a few. Some are more prized than others, highly sort after and fetch very higher prices.
How to prepare
It's best not to wash mushrooms as they will absorb the moisture which can soften them. Clean mushrooms by brushing or wiping over with damp paper towel or if necessary, the skin can be peeled off using a paring knife.
Trim off the bottom part of the stem and prepare are necessary - they can be sliced finely, chopped roughly or left whole. With larger mushrooms, the stem can be removed for the mushroom to be used whole and stuffed.
When preparing, they will lose any water in them, so they will shrink down quite a bit, but this liquid only adds flavour. With any cooking, it's best not to move them around the pan or grill much as this can soften them quicker.
Roasted: 5 - 7 minutes
Sautéed: 2 - 4 minutes
Microwave: 2 - 3 minutes
Deep fried: 2 - 4 minutes
Grilled: 2 – 4 minutes
Buyer's and storage guide
Buy fresh looking, firm mushrooms that have an even colouring. Avoid any with brown marks or lesions, or that looked dried up. Often there is a paper bag supplied specifically for loose mushrooms, instead of plastic. Some markets and grocers sell pre-packaged punnets that are either whole or sliced.
More often used in Asian cooking, packets of dried mushrooms are made use of which can be soaked in a little water to freshen before cooking.
Although best to use mushrooms as fresh as possible, you can store them in the refrigerator preferable in a paper bag, not plastic, for 2-3 days. Also don't keep them alongside odour-intensive vegetables such as garlic and onions as they will take on their smell.
- Enjoy sautéed with garlic and parsley on toast for breakfast
- Use when preparing lasagna or in creamy pasta dishes
- Slice and add cooked or even raw to salads, wraps and sandwiches
- A must for winter in mushroom soup
- In an omelet using free range eggs and other vegetables such as capsicum