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Mushroom is basically a fleshy fungus that grows above the ground. There are many species of mushrooms being cultivated but not all of them are suitable for human consumption. Mushroom that is used as an ingredient in cooking is called ‘Edible mushroom’. Edible mushroom has a stem, a cap and gills inside the cap, popularly called ‘white mushrooms’. Mushrooms are readily available in grocery stores and widely used in making various dishes such as mushroom roll, baked mushroom, mushroom and peas curry and mushroom soup. Mushroom dishes are served either as exotic snacks, side dishes or main dishes.

History of Mushroom

The first species of edible mushroom have been found in Chile, 13000 years back but the first evidence of mushroom consumption have been found several years back in China. In Chinese tradition, mushrooms were considered a medicinal item as well as a food item. In ancient times the act of consuming mushroom was called ‘Mycophagy’. The upper class of Ancient Romans and Greeks were also fond of eating mushrooms in their meals. USA got imported spores from Mexico in late 1800’s and hence led to the introduction of mushroom.

Culinary Use of Mushroom

Mushroom is considered a highly toxic item if consumed raw as most of the species are wild. It is recommended to cook mushroom thoroughly before eating. Edible mushroom is used in making various soups, salads, dips, curries and baked mushroom dishes. Mushroom pizza is also a very popular dish among international cuisine. Owing to its high nutritional value, mushroom dishes are quiet popular among people of all age-groups. Mushroom can be used to make everyday or gourmet mushroom dishes. Stuffed mushrooms, mushroom stew and mushroom rolls are some common everyday mushroom dishes while mushrooms stuffed with pork and mushroom fondue dip are some of the gourmet mushroom dishes.

Cuisines Commonly Making Mushroom Dishes

Chinese cuisine makes wide use of mushroom in most of its recipes. Indian, Greek and American cuisines are also not far behind from Chinese cuisine while using mushroom in their recipes. Mushroom omelet Chinese style and Chinese chicken with mushrooms are some of the common Chinese mushroom recipes. Matar mushroom and rock’s curry mushroom soup are common Indian mushroom dishes. Mushroom gives an earthy flavor and meaty texture to various dishes.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Mushroom

Due to poisonous contents present in some species of mushroom, it should always be consumed in cooked form. Here are some preferred methods for cooking mushrooms:

• Stir-fried – Mushrooms are stir-fried with other vegetables and meats to make various curry and dry mushroom dishes.

• Boiled – Mushroom is boiled to make mushroom stew or soup.

• Blended – Boiled mushroom is blended with other ingredients in food processor to make puree for mushroom dip.

• Baked – Mushrooms and vegetables are baked with cream and cheese to make nice mushroom casserole.

• Grilled – Marinated mushrooms are grilled to make good side dishes and appetizers.

Nutritive Value of Mushroom

Mushrooms are good source of Vitamin D. It is considered as a very low-calorie food item. For weight-watcher’s, mushroom dishes are highly recommended as it contains low sodium, carbohydrates and fats. Mushroom is a rich source of potassium and copper that helps in fighting against cardio-vascular diseases. Consuming mushroom could be the simplest way for women to reduce their risk of breast cancer. Strengthening of veins, preventing migraine headaches and providing healthy metabolism are some of the other health benefits obtained by consuming mushroom dishes.

Buying and Storing of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are available throughout the year. Always buy clean and evenly-colored mushrooms that are free from dark patches. Slump or spongy mushrooms are not suitable for consumption. The cap of the mushrooms should feel dry while touching and the gills should not be exposed. Storage of mushrooms is also a very easy task. As mushrooms are full of moisture, it should be packed in a paper bag and stored in a refrigerator for at least 7-8 days. Leftover mushroom dishes should also be stored in an air-tight container and kept in refrigerator for not more than two days.

Types of Mushroom

There are several species of mushrooms being cultivated but only few of them are edible. Here is the list of mushrooms that are used in cooking:

• Table mushroom – With biological name Agaricus Bisporus it is popularly known as ‘button mushroom’. This species is widely used in making mushroom dishes.

• Shiitake – It is the most common edible mushroom used in Chinese cuisine as well as in Western cuisine. It is also known as ‘Fragrant mushroom’.

• Porcini – This variety of mushroom is highly prized and mainly used in making soup dishes due to its intense aroma.

• Morchella – This type of mushroom is mainly used in making exotic mushroom dishes. It may cause some allergies, so should be consumed with care.

These are the only few varieties of edible mushrooms. Others are Giant puffball and field mushrooms. All varieties should be thoroughly washed and cooked before consumption.

Non-Food Uses of Mushroom

• Mushrooms are widely used as medicinal fungi.

• Mushroom dyes are commonly used to dye wool and natural fibers.

• It also plays and important part in various water filtration technologies.

Mushroom Trivia

• Honey mushroom, Armillaria ostoyae is the largest living organism ever found.

• Mushroom does not need any light to grow.