Edible Mushrooms: The Friendly Fungus
Mushrooms are one of nature’s most abundant organisms and have shown up in a variety of folklore and cookbooks around the world. While they have been said to be the home of gnomes or in some cultures even considered to have magical properties, more practical online culinary school students will discover that mushrooms can be quite the flavorful addition to many home-cooked and professionally prepared dishes.
There are many different types of mushrooms in the market today. Some are plucked from the wild while others are farmed and harvested. Others are toxic to humans and if eaten can be fatal. Here’s a quick list of the ones you can use for your next culinary project as well as the ones that you should keep at a distance.
Wild fungi add an exotic element to any dish but you should only trust the ones you find at your local market (unless you’re a seasoned pro}. Picking mushrooms in the wild can be a tricky and dangerous business if you do not have the proper supervision or experience.
Morel – These mushrooms have an earthy taste that goes well with sauces and soups. Morels can come in gold, black and white colors and also have a distinct pointed cap. They can be kept dry or frozen if you plan on storing them for more than a few months.
Chanterelle – Chanterelles come in an orange or yellow hue and have gill-like ridges that run the length of their stems. They have a rich, earthy and woodsy taste that creates a great aroma when prepared with butter, oil, cream or minced garlic cloves.
Exotic mushrooms that are farmed can cost a little bit more than your wild mushrooms, but they are certified safe to eat.
Shiitake – Usually found and grown in the East Asian regions of Japan, South Korea and China can have a golden to dark brown color. Their caps are wide and firm and very strong stems that are usually unsuitable for direct consumption. If you plan on storing shiitake mushrooms, buy them dried. They can be revived by soaking them in water.
Truffles – These flavorful fungi are native to the southern regions of France and the northern regions of Italy. Very hard to find, these mushrooms resemble lumps of coal that come in a dark brown and black color. Truffles can cost from $130 to $2700 per pound, depending on the type you buy.
These mushrooms should come with a warning sign:
Fly amanita – Red cap riddled with bright white dots. Never to be eaten raw.
Common ink cap – Gray, brown or white capped. Can be poisonous if consumed with alcohol.
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