There are over 50,000 species of mushrooms, including 30 that glow in the dark! But only around 2,000 varieties are actually edible.
They are extremely high in antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin A, B, C and D. Mushrooms are rich in the fifth taste – umami, which translates to “essence of deliciousness” or “pleasant savoury taste” and means mushrooms make for a wonderful meat substitute.
Did you know mushrooms are more closely related in DNA to humans than to plants?
Like human skin, mushrooms can produce vitamin D by being exposed to sunlight. In fact, exposing a freshly cut shiitake mushroom, gills up, to the sun for eight hours can increase its vitamin D content by as much as 4,600 times!
Portabello mushrooms, button mushrooms, and white mushrooms are all the same mushroom variety at different levels of maturity.
Watch this space! Once they break the surface of the ground, mushrooms grow double their size in 24 hours.
Whether you call them cremini, baby bella, brown button, Swiss brown, Roman brown, chestnut mushroom, Italian brown, portobello (also portobella and portabella), field mushrooms or flats, they are all the same – the last three being harvested later when the mushrooms have opened. All brown mushrooms have an earthier, robust flavour and a meaty texture over white varieties and are sometimes referred to as “vegetarian’s meat”. They have less moisture content, which extends their shelf life and means they retain their shape and yield better after cooking than white mushrooms.
White button mushrooms
These are the same family as brown mushrooms and are known as common mushroom, button mushroom, cultivated mushroom, table mushroom and champignon mushroom. White buttons have a milder taste and are suited to both raw and cooked applications.
The second most commonly cultivated mushroom in the world after button mushrooms, which are our main fungi crop in New Zealand. These pretty oyster-shaped pink, grey and tan mushrooms have a nutty, subtle flavour that goes well in soups, stews, and sauces.
Prized in Italian and French cuisine, porcini mushrooms are also known as king bolete or cèpe in French. Similar taste to other, more common mushrooms, but with a deeper and nuttier flavour.
Pronounced shee-TAH-kay, range in colour from amber to “paper bag-brown” and have a rich and earthy, smoky and woody taste that will enhance your favourite dishes.
Also known as enokitake, winter needle or velvet foot mushrooms, they are a staple addition to many dishes across Asia. Traditionally used in Asian-style soups, their crisp texture can also be used for salads and other dishes.
Look out for other varieties like Lion’s Mane, Wood Ear and Honeycomb.
Mushrooms are a staple in many cuisines. They pair well with Asian flavours such as ginger, shallot, miso and nori. They similarly sing with classic French ingredients: butter, cream, bacon, wine and thyme. Italian dishes such as gnocchi, risotto or pasta are only made better with the addition of mushrooms.
They create a deep flavour in broths for ramen as well as hearty soups where they are both the hero and the supporting player.
Eggs in any style are a great breakfast option to pair with mushrooms. Their meaty texture provides a vegetarian or vegan option be it in a burger, deep fried, minced or skewered.
Mushrooms pair well with nuts, such as macadamia, hazelnuts and almonds, and with a variety of cheeses. Don’t forget to add mushroom to your cabinet pies with flavours like chicken, mushroom and thyme or beef stroganoff.
Mushrooms can also be eaten raw. Try marinating some in a vinaigrette with fresh herbs to add to an antipasto platter.
Grown in doors all year round, the biggest growers in New Zealand are based in Hawke’s Bay, Waikato and Christchurch.