Mushrooms are a coffee-colored variety of the world’s most commonly eaten mushroom, commonly called the “button” mushroom. The names “white button,” “crimini” and “portobello” all refer to this same scientific category of mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. Button mushrooms have grown wild since prehistoric times, having been consumed as food by the early hunter-gatherers. Cultivation most likely began in Asia, involving cultivation in China, Japan, and India. China is currently the world’s largest commercial producer of mushrooms, following by Europe and then the United States. Within the U.S., about 70% of all mushrooms are grown on the east coast, with the state of Pennsylvania having the highest U.S. yields.
Mushrooms are so porous that if they are exposed to too much water, they will quickly absorb it and become soggy. Therefore, the best way to clean mushrooms without sacrificing their texture and taste is to clean them using minimal, if any, water. To do this, simply wipe them with a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen cloth. You could also use a mushroom brush, available at most kitchenware stores.
If using the whole mushroom in a recipe, simply slice off the very bottom of the stem, which is usually a bit spongy. If your recipe only calls for the caps, gently break off the stems with your hands and discard (or save for making soup stock).
Some quick recipe ideas:
- Sautéed mushrooms and onions
- Add finely chopped mushrooms to some homemade pasta sauce.
- Remove the stems, and stuff with your favorite vegetable medley or soft cheese.
- Mushroom omelet