Mushrooms are the fleshy bodies of several fungi species and add flavor to a variety of dishes. Mushrooms grow both below and above the ground. Only a small number of mushrooms are actually edible. Poisonous mushrooms have side effects including hallucinations, nausea, disorientation and death. Knowing which mushrooms are edible is important to prevent an inadvertent poisoning.
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Truffles, also called tubers, are mushrooms that grow underground, often near trees. There are actually hundreds of truffle species but edible ones are rare. White truffles grow in Italy and Croatia and are extremely expensive. In 2009, white truffles were selling for about $7,000 per pound. Black truffles are grown in France and are only slightly less expensive than white truffles. White truffles have a pale cream or white and brown marble flesh while black truffles have a black flesh. While rare, truffles are a commonly recognized mushroom.
Matsutake is a pine mushroom that grows in Asia, North America and Europe. The mushroom has a very distinctive spicy aroma. Matsutake mushrooms grow under trees and thrive when covered with leaves rather than direct sunlight. These mushrooms are hard to find and very expensive. In Japan and the Pacific Northwest, matsutake mushrooms are served as a delicacy. Matsutake mushrooms are rare but many upscale restaurants serve them, making them familiar to the general public.
Shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia and are eaten as a delicacy in Asian countries. Shiitake mushrooms are dried before being sent to other parts of the world. The mushroom grows on dead logs and has also been called a black forest mushroom. Dried shiitake is used in miso soup and sautéed in vegetarian dishes.
The portobello mushroom is also known as the white mushroom, common mushroom and Paris mushroom. The fungi is native to European and North American grasslands. The portobello mushroom is a fully mature white mushroom. If harvested at a state of immaturity, the mushroom tastes different and has other names depending on the maturity level. Portobello mushrooms have a slightly open cap and the flesh has begun to darken. The mushrooms contain high levels of vitamin D.
Crimini mushrooms are the immature form of portobello mushrooms. At this stage, the mushroom has a closed cap and the flesh has just begun to darken. Crimini mushrooms also contain high amounts of vitamin D.
The oyster mushroom was initially cultivated in Germany during the First World War and is now grown around the world. Oyster mushrooms have a fan or oyster-shaped cap that can have a diameter of 5 to 25 cm. The mushroom’s flesh is firm and white while the gills are white or cream. Oyster mushrooms grow on trees in temperate and subtropical forests. The mushroom is used as a delicacy in Asian dishes. Oyster mushrooms are also stuffed or served as soup.