White Button mushrooms are the largest part of the Ontario crop. They range from white to cream and brown and vary from small "buttons" to jumbos.
Responding to a more sophisticated market, growers are also producing other varieties:
- Shiitake (large, densely textured, cocoa-colored with umbrella-shape caps)
- Oyster (large fluted caps, close-set gills, fine texture and pale, almost translucent coloring)
- Portobella (brown, flat-topped with exposed gills)
- Crimini (similar to White Button with color ranging from tan to dark brown)
Mushrooms are a source of Vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, folacin, and fibre. A 2/3 cup serving contains only 12 calories.
Before mushrooms were cultivated, people ate the wild varieties. The Japanese were probably the first to grow mushrooms, raising Shiitakes some two thousand years ago.
Today there are thousands of mushroom varieties in the world, of which only 25 are cultivated. The rest are not palatable.
Buying and storing
Good quality fresh mushrooms should be firm and free of blemishes. All varieties bruise easily and must be handled with care.
Use fresh mushrooms as soon as possible after buying, however they will keep for several days in a cold vegetable crisper. For White Button, Crimini and Portobello, refrigerate loose mushrooms in a paper bag. Before use, wipe with damp cloth or rinse in cool water, then pat dry.
Shiitake and Oyster varieties should be refrigerated in a container covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying. Before use, rinse briefly; pat dry.
Mushrooms purchased prepackaged can be refrigerated "as is."
Gently rinse in cool water, drain thoroughly, pat dry with towel. Trim any dry stem ends. Shiitakes may have tough stems that need to be removed.
Mushrooms are delicious raw on vegetable trays and in salads, or sliced and marinated in olive oil with garlic and parsley. They're a popular pizza topping and a frequent ingredient in creamed vegetable soups, omelettes, pasta sauces, quiches and rice dishes.
Stuffed and baked mushroom caps are a standard party appetizer. Sautéed mushrooms are great combined with sour cream, ground pepper and fresh herbs, served over toast.
Shiitakes are a staple in many Chinese and Japanese dishes. Their somewhat woodsy, meaty flavor is superb in a stir-fry, casserole, rich broth and in various pasta dishes.
Oyster mushrooms are the most delicate and need careful handling. Try them sautéed with minced garlic, parsley and olive oil. They're also delicious brushed lightly with good quality olive oil and gently grilled.