Mushrooms (Enoki, Pleurotus, Shiitake)

Description - The popularity of different species and varieties of mushrooms has increased in the past few years. The most popular variety is the Agaricus bisporus . There are three different strains of A. bisporus.

All are similar in holding quality and shelf life, differing basically in coloring. White, off-white and dark brown are the common colors. White mushrooms dominate the fresh market. Some other varieties of mushrooms whose popularity is increasing include enoki, pleurotus and shiitake.

Enoki mushrooms are creamy white with long slender stems that are topped with small round caps. They are mild flavored mushrooms with a slightly sweet taste and can be used as fresh or cooked.

Pleurotus mushrooms, also known as oyster mushrooms, are grayish brown in color with a delicate flavor and texture.

The Shiitake mushroom is a large, umbrella-shaped mushroom that is brownish-black in color. With a meaty flavor, shiitake can be used raw or cooked.

Culture - It was formerly believed that darkness was required for growing good mushrooms. This is not true; mushrooms need proper compost, good sanitation and, most of all, a constant and suitable temperature and protection against drafts. The climate in the U.S. is not suitable for the commercial production of mushrooms out-of-doors. Therefore they are grown in natural caves or cultured in carefully designed windowless buildings in which temperature, humidity and ventilation are precisely controlled.

Selection - Freshness, color and shape are the three points generally considered when selecting mushrooms. Avoid withered mushrooms since this is a sign of age. Mushrooms which look bright and attractive in the store can be kept in refrigeration for 4-5 days with little effect. All mushrooms, however, will eventually oxidize and turn dark.

Truffles are related to the mushroom but are bulbous and unimpressive looking. They are used in small quantities to flavor a variety of dishes. They grow on the roots of trees and are valued as a delicacy.

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