Mushrooms are a unique source of food and come in infinite varieties. They are a type of living organism that has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. Mushrooms are actually fungi and in many countries, that is what they are called. There are countless varieties of Mushrooms that are edible and there are probably just as many or more that are not edible. The mushrooms that are not edible can be poisonous and can cause severe illness or worse, death. For that reason, wild mushrooms should not be picked by anyone other than a trained mycologist.
Mushrooms can be purchased dried, canned or fresh. For a long time, even though there are over 590 species of Mushrooms found growing in California, the only Mushrooms readily available in the United States for consumption were Brown Mushrooms and White Mushrooms. Photos of some of the California Mushrooms can be found on Myko Web, a site that specializes in California Mushrooms. Some mushrooms are so amazingly beautiful that it is hard to believe that they can be poisonous.
With the increasing population growth from Asia and the Middle East, and the rise of the Television Food Shows, our food selections have greatly increased. Today, you can walk into almost any Supermarket and find at least half a dozen varieties of mushrooms readily available. Some of the varieties that you can purchase are Crimini which are small brown mushrooms, Portobello which are a larger version of the Crimini, White Mushrooms, Shitake or Wood Mushrooms, Oyster, Enoki, Chanterelles and Truffles.
Mushrooms can be cooked whole, quartered, sliced or chopped. The Crimini are good in stews, sauteed or stir fried with other vegetables. They are also good served with steak or other types of meat. The Portobello which is essentially a fully grown Crimini are great for Mushrooms burgers. Remove the stems, marinate them in Italian Salad Dressing and then grill them on a stove top grill and serve on Hamburger Buns topped with Provolone Cheese and Lettuce and Tomato. You will get the same satisfaction from this Burger as one with beef and it is much healthier for you. The Portobello can also be stuffed with either a crab stuffing, a breadcrumb and chopped mushroom stem stuffing or a rice stuffing. They are large enough so that one stuffed mushroom can serve as an entre for dinner served along with a salad.
The White Mushrooms can be used in pretty much the same way as the Crimini. The larger of the White Mushrooms are great stuffed for appetizers. They can be served at the table or buy morel spawn passed around as finger food before dinner starts or just be part of a great appetizer party. The Shitake which is sometimes called tree mushrooms or forest mushrooms are native to East Asia. They have a unique taste which can best be described as a blend of filet mignon and lobster. Unlike the stems of the Brown and White Mushrooms, the stem portion of the Shitake is too tough and woody to eat, so they should be removed before preparing.
Oyster mushrooms grow in clumps and do have the shape of an oyster and they have a chewy texture. It is not quite certain how Oyster Mushrooms got their name. Some say it is from the flavor and others say that it is from their shape. They were first cultivated in Germany during World War I as a subsistence measure. They are now cultivated world-wide and are especially favored in Asian countries.