Did you know that there are over 2000 mushroom varieties identified around the globe?
However, not all mushrooms are edible! Some are poisonous and cause major digestion problems if consumed. This happens because of certain toxic substances present in them. Most wild mushrooms are considered poisonous, but look alarmingly similar to regular mushroom. It takes years of practice and technical know-how for a farmer to differentiate between the two. That being said, several varieties of wild mushrooms are safe to eat, but only if they have been cooked properly.
Edible mushrooms are a rich source of vitamin B and a good source for potassium and phosphorous too. The amount of vitamin D, in mushrooms however depends strictly on their post-harvest handling and how much exposure to sunlight they have had.
India is home to a number of mushroom species. The most popular edible ones include:
1. Button Mushrooms
They are most common variety of mushrooms found in India and are a popular choice for cooking as well. They have a mild flavour, soft texture and a milky hue to them. Button mushrooms go brilliantly with Italian food and are used in making delicious Indian curries too. It is said that about 90% of the mushrooms consumed around the world are variants of the button mushroom. Did you know you that button mushrooms can easily be grown in a pot at home too?
2. Portobello Mushrooms
Also known as “Cep mushrooms”, they look like giant versions of the button mushrooms, but have a woody flavor to them. Though they can grow up to 10 inches long, they are generally harvested when they are one inch big and sold in dried form. They are one of the most flavoursome mushrooms and so are popularly used in cooking, especially Italian cooking.
3. Shitake Mushrooms
This variety of mushrooms, with its low water content and plentiful medicinal properties, have seen a recent surge in demand! Owing to which, there is a focus on their cultivation in the northern states of India. They bear a smoky flavour that’s simply delicious. That being said, their incorporation in the culinary world has been a slow journey will a long way still to go.
4. Enoki Mushrooms
The rare specie of mushrooms have a light, almost fruity flavour. Their appearance resembles small white straws with tiny caps on them. One must be careful so as to know overcook them as heat can really tighten them up, making them unpleasant to eat. In fact, they can even be eaten raw! Given their crispy texture, they make great additions to salads and soups as garnish.
5. Morel Mushrooms
Also known as Guchchi mushrooms in the Himalayan region, this variety is particularly difficult to grow, due to which it is rare to find and very expensive (costing nearly Rs. 30,000 per kg!). The appearance resembles a honeycomb perched upon a branch. Dark brown in colour, their flavour profile is similar to Shitake mushrooms, except far woodier and enhanced in flavour.
6. Oyster Mushrooms
Grown extensively in tropical regions, you can find this “fan shaped” mushroom growing in Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. They are super popular in cooking, and have a mild flavour and odour that get enhanced when exposed to heat. Locally known as “Dhingri”, this variety of mushroom is identified by their distinct whitish hue.
7. Straw Mushrooms
Also known as “Chinese Mushrooms”, these are a popular variety of the button mushroom itself. They have a soft flavor and aroma to them and are therefore often used in cooking. In India they are grown in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, etc.
A few other edible mushrooms varieties found and grown around the globe include:
1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
This mushroom, with an unusual name, has a rather unusual appearance too! With tiny white hair framing a round figure… it looks just like a lion! They belong in the same family as Morel Mushrooms and have a strong meaty flavour. These mushrooms are also known for their anti-inflammatory, gastro-protective and cardio-protective properties and hence are popular in the medical world.
2. Chanterelle Mushrooms
These pretty yellow mushrooms that resemble the pout of a trumpet can be found both in fresh and canned varieties. They have a strong peppery flavour, but one has to refrain from over cooking them as that toughens them and makes them difficult to eat. They pair very well with eggs.
3. Maitaki Mushrooms
They appear like a fleshy brown cabbage and are majorly grown in the US. The term “maitaki” means “dancing mushrooms” in Japanese. They are highly coveted for their medicinal properties that aid in boosting the immune system. Maitaki Mushrooms also possess hypoglycemic properties, making them particularly beneficial for diabetics and people suffering from high cholesterol.
4. Hedgehog Mushroom
Named so because of the grills present underneath the cap of the mushroom. The hedgehog mushroom is also known as the “sweet-tooth” mushroom because of its sweet nutty flavour profile. When cooked well they acquire a nice crunchy texture to them.
5. Shimeji Mushrooms
Also known as white beech mushrooms, these are generally grown in Asia and Northern Europe. The white Shimeji mushrooms possess a bitter taste, hence requiring to be cooked well.
Mushrooms are delicious but apart from their delicious taste they are super beneficial to one’s health as well! They are a fabulous source of antioxidants that help you stay active and are even good for the health of your heart.
Do you eat mushrooms often? Which one’s do you use typically and what style do you cook them in? Share your recipes with us, we’d love to learn more…