Where do we begin with mushrooms? They run the gamut from beautiful to grotesque. They can even be magical. They have the ability to add a depth of flavor to our dishes that is otherwise unattainable. But most of us buy mushrooms at the store not really understanding the difference between the big brown ones and the tiny little white ones.
For some of us, this means that we occasionally pick up a new variety and throw it into a home-cooked dish. For others it means we just stick to what we know -- the good ol' tried-and-true white button mushroom. And while there is nothing wrong with this common mushroom, it's just, well, a bit boring at times. Now that most grocery stores have the meaty shiitake and the floral chanterelle so readily available to us, how can we not take this opportunity for some culinary exploration?
Mushrooms shouldn't be a mystery, so instead of keeping you in the dark, we're shedding some light on our fungus friends. Here's our guide to every kind of mushroom you need to know about:
It's easy to believe that these mushrooms offer a slight floral note -- just the looks of them would suggest that. Chanterelles, which are known for their striking golden color (but also come in different shades), are fruity and peppery. They are delicate in flavor and texture, work well as an entree topping and also pair nicely with eggs.
Chanterelles last longer than most mushrooms in the fridge -- up to 10 days. They have a high moisture content, so when cooked they should be prepared in a dry saute, as they will quickly release their own water.
Chanterelle Recipes:Chanterelle Mushrooms with Comtè CheeseTagliatelle with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic & Thyme
Creminis, also sold as baby portobellos, are just a more mature white button mushroom. They are similar in shape, maybe slightly bigger in size, but one discernable difference is their color -- creminis are a light shade of brown.
They are a mild mushroom in flavor, and make a great substitute for white buttons in your favorite recipes as they add a deeper flavor.
Cremini Recipes:Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini, Mushrooms and OnionPolenta with Hunter Sauce
Paula Hible via Getty Images
These mushrooms have long stems and little caps. At first glance, they kind of look like bean sprouts, but they have way more flavor. They're common in Asian cooking, and are available fresh and canned. Because they're crisp, they hold up well in soups and go nicely in salads. They're native to Japan and really delicious. Enoki Recipes
: Sauteed Prawns, Potatoes and Enoki Mushrooms
, Sweet and Spicy Mushroom Stir Fry
Flickr: Building Blocks Show
Shiitake mushrooms grow mainly in Japan, China and Korea, which is one of the reasons why they are so predominant in Asian cuisine. They are savory and meaty, and add an umami flavor to dishes.
Shiitakes can be used to top meat dishes and to enhance soups and sauces. And if you can't find the shiitake at your supermarket but still want the flavor, look for it in powder form.
Shiitake Recipes:Shiitake-and-Swiss-Chard Soup with Hand-Cut Noodles
Asian Cabbage and Shiitake Stir-Fry
Oysters may be one of the more intimidating mushrooms in appearance, since they look nothing like the common button mushroom. But fear them not -- they are simple to prepare and offer a delicate and sweet flavor. Depending on the time of year they are foraged, oysters can even offer an anise-like taste.
This mushroom, which got its common name due to its resemblance to the water bivalve molluscs, can be easily cultivated, making it one of the more affordable mushroom varieties.
Oyster Recipes:Mixed Mushroom Ragout
Sesame Roasted Mushrooms & Scallions
Wild Mushrooms with Frisee
Rosemary Calvert via Getty Images
Also known as white mushrooms, button mushrooms are the most common type you'll find in the supermarket. They're harvested when they're young and have a very subtle, earthy flavor and are available year-round. Button Mushroom Recipes: Classic Stuffed Mushrooms
, Cream of Mushroom Soup
Tim Hawley via Getty Images
Also known as maitake -- which translates to "dancing mushrooms" in Japanese -- these delicate, flowery mushrooms are packed with flavor. They're rich, earthy and pretty dreamy. They grow at the base of trees, particularly oaks, and are used in Japanese and western cooking. They hold their shape well when cooked, so they're great for soups and stir-fries. Hen Of The Woods Recipe: Sautéed Hen Of The Woods And King Trumpet Mushrooms With Garlic And Fresh Thyme
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