Mushrooms are often called "the fruit of the fungi world."
Shitake and Enokitake mushrooms are two of the varieties that known to contain "umami" or the fifth taste group, which is the pleasant, savory taste and is found naturally in many foods.
Mushrooms are low in calories, fat and cholesterol-free and low in sodium. Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable with vitamin D. The top three selling mushroom varieties (button, crimini and portabella) have vitamin D ranging from 1 to 97 percent of the Daily Value (400 IU) per raw 84 gram serving.
Scientists are currently exploring links between low vitamin D status and increased risk for a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
Mushrooms are high in anti-oxidents and help to strengthen the immune system. They contain B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins play an important role in the nervous system.
While it's tempting to forage your own mushrooms in the woods and fields, there are many varieties of non-edible and poisonous mushrooms and it's best to purchase them directly from a supplier that is knowledgeable about what they are selling you. Many poisonous varieties resemble the non-poisonous varieties.
Mushrooms are generally characterized as having a stem, a cap and gills. They come in a myriad of sizes, colors and shapes.
They are fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
Selecting and Buying
If you are cooking mushrooms whole, choose those that are uniform in size to promote even cooking.
Look for young mushrooms, which are closed as opposed to open and flat. Purchase only the amount of mushrooms that you intend to use before the expiration date. Buy mushrooms displaying the latest expiration date on the package.
Preparation and Use
There are many varieties commonly used in cuisine, both cultivated and wild ones. Mushrooms typically used in cooking include: white (Paris) mushrooms, shiitake, portobello, truffle, chanterelles, morels and a variety of wild mushrooms.
Since commercially-available mushrooms are grown in a sterile medium, invest in a soft mushroom brush and simply brush away any clinging growing medium rather than washing with water. If you must, wipe them with a damp paper towel.
Be aware that salt releases the water in mushrooms, so judge the salt usage accordingly for your particular recipe.
There is no need to peel mushrooms. In fact, peeling mushrooms nullifies most of their flavor. Simply trim off any damaged spots and tough or dirty stems.
Use a mushroom brush to clean the mushrooms. They can be sliced or served whole.
Conserving and Storing
Adjust your refrigerator's temperature to between 34 and 40 degrees F. Low temperatures keep mushrooms fresh.
Get a brown paper bag. Paper bags are better for mushroom storage than plastic bags because they do not encourage moisture accumulation. If you must store your mushrooms in a plastic bag, wrap them in a paper towel before inserting them into the bag.
Remove the mushrooms from their store packaging. Store packaging usually contains plastic parts, which contribute to decay.
Place the dry mushrooms into the brown paper bag.
Put the bag of mushrooms in your refrigerator. Place the mushrooms somewhere that is largely undisturbed and away from light.
Take only the mushrooms you intend to use from the brown paper bag and clean them. Never wash mushrooms before storing them. Washing mushrooms before storage encourages mold growth.