(Old English muscheron, from the Old French
mouscheron, French mousseron (same name in
English, for a common kind of mushroom),
itself perhaps from mousse, meaning moss) is
an above-ground fruiting body (that is, a
spore-producing structure) of a fungus,
having a shaft and a cap; and by extension,
the entire fungus producing the fruiting
body of such appearance, the former
consisting of a network (called the
mycelium) of filaments or hyphae. In a much
broader sense, mushroom is applied to any
visible fungus, or especially the fruiting
body of any fungus, with the mycelium
usually being hidden under bark, ground,
rotted wood, leaves, etc. The technical term
for the spore-producing structure of "true"
mushrooms is the basidiocarp. The term
"toadstool" is used typically to designate a
basidiocarp that is poisonous to eat.
The main types of mushrooms are agarics
(including the button mushroom, the most
common mushroom eaten in the U.S.), boletes,
chanterelles, tooth fungi, polypores,
puffballs, jelly fungi, coral fungi, bracket
fungi, stinkhorns, and cup fungi. Mushrooms
and other fungi are studied by mycologists.
The "true" mushrooms are classified as
Basidiomycota (also known as "club fungi").
A few mushrooms are classified by
mycologists as Ascomycota (the "cup fungi"),
the morel and truffle being good examples.
Thus, the term mushroom is more one of
common application to macroscopic fungal
fruiting bodies than one having precise
Edible mushrooms are used extensively in
cooking, in many cuisines. Though commonly
thought to contain little nutritional value,
many varieties of mushrooms are high in
fiber and protein, and provide vitamins such
as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, B12
and ascorbic acid, and minerals including
iron, selenium, potassium and phosphorus. However, a
number of species of mushrooms are
poisonous, and these may resemble edible
varieties, although eating them could be
fatal. Picking mushrooms in the wild is
risky — riskier than gathering edible plants
— and a practice not to be undertaken by
amateurs. The problem is due to the fact
that separating edible from poisonous
species is dependent upon the application of
only a few easily recognizable traits.
People who collect mushrooms for consumption
are known as mushroom hunters, and the act
of collecting them as such is called
There are thousands of regularly harvested
edible mushrooms in the world, in addition
to literally hundreds of thousands of other
potentially edible species. Some species are
highly prized because they are not or cannot
be cultivated and must be harvested from
natural settings. Check safety rules under
mushroom hunting, however, before assuming
any wild mushroom is edible.
Mushrooms were so flavorful for the pharaohs
of Egypt that they decreed mushrooms could
only be eaten by royalty and no commoner
could even touch them, thus giving the royal
family the entire available supply. Many
prehistoric and a few modern cultures around
the world used psychedelic mushrooms for
ritualistic purposes. Before 10,000 BCE
while people were still hunting and
gathering as a part of every day life, women
did the gathering. Women were said to be
blessed with the ability to see in the dim
light so they were successful in foraging
for mushrooms and fungi amongst other things
. Mushroom cultivation
reached the United States in the late 1800s
with imported spores from England.
Common edible species
A few of the most commonly consumed fungi
bisporus : also known as the button
mushroom, the most extensively cultivated
mushroom in the world, accounting for 38%
of the world production of cultivated
Pleurotus species : The oyster mushroom
and king trumpet mushroom. Pleurotus
mushrooms are the second most important
mushrooms in production in the world, 25%
of total world production of cultivated
mushrooms. Pleurotus mushrooms are
world-wide, China is the major producer.
Several species can be grown on
carbonaceous matter such as straw or
newspaper. In the wild they are usually
found growing on wood.
Volvariella volvacea : the "Paddy straw
mushroom." Volvariella mushrooms account
for 16% of total production of cultivated
mushrooms in the world.
edodes : also known as
mushroom. Lentinus edodes is largely
produced in Japan, China and South Korea.
Lentinus edodes accounts for 10% of world
production of cultivated mushrooms.
porcini: Boletus edulis, also known as the
king bolete, cep, and Steinpilz, is
renowned for its nutty flavor. It is
sought after worldwide, and can be found
in a variety of culinary dishes.
morel: morels belong to the ascomycete
grouping of fungi. They are usually found
in open scrub, woodland or open ground in
late spring. When collecting this fungus,
care must be taken to distinguish it from
the poisonous false morel, Gyromitra
chanterelle: The yellow chanterelle is one
of the best and most easily recognizable
mushrooms, and can be found in Asia,
Europe, North America and Australia.
Caution must be used, as there are several
types of very poisonous (although not
usually lethal) lookalikes.
Flammulina velutipes : the "winter
mushroom", also known as enokitake in
- Tree ear
fungus : Auricularia polytricha or
Auricularia auricula-judae, two closely
related species of jelly fungi that are
commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
fungus : Tremella fuciformis, another type
of jelly fungi that is commonly used in
truffle: Tuber magnatum (Piemont white
truffle), Tuber aestivum (Summer or St.
Jean truffle), Tuber melanosporum (Perigord
truffle), Tuber brumale. Truffles belong
to the ascomycete grouping of fungi. The
truffle fruitbodies develop underground in
mycorrhizal association with certain trees
e.g. oak, poplar, beech, and hazel. Being
difficult to find, trained pigs or dogs
are often used to sniff them out for
shelf: Laetiporous sulphureous. Also known
by names such as the "chicken mushroom",
"chicken fungus", sulphur shelf is a
distinct bracket fungus popular among
frondosa : known in Japan as maitake (also
"hen of the woods" or "sheep’s head"); a
large, hearty mushroom commonly found on
or near stumps and bases of oak trees, and
believed to have medicinal properties.
comatus : the shaggy mane. Must be cooked
as soon as possible after harvesting or
the caps will deliquesce and turn to ink.
Only the fresh young caps and stems are
edible as the mature caps will turn black
fungi and white fungi, two tough, leathery
cultivated mushrooms both with a delicate
flavor, used for flavoring of soups and
for decoration if thinly sliced.
Shiitake mushrooms An edible eastern
Asian mushroom (Lentinus edodes) having an
aromatic, fleshy, golden or dark brown to
blackish cap and an inedible tough stipe.
plump firm and solid mushrooms. Avoid the
limp or dried looking ones. They should not
be shriveled or slippery (which indicates
decomposition). The mushroom should have a
nice earthy smell.
Remove the mushrooms from any wrapping and
spread on a tray and cover with paper
toweling. Don't moisten the toweling or
the mushrooms and place them in the
refrigerator in an area that allows the air
to circulate. Avoid placing any other items
on top of them. The mushrooms should keep
about 5 - 6 days.
Cooked Portabellas can be frozen and will
keep for several months. Place in freezer
containers or bags, excluding as much air as
possible. (Uncooked mushrooms don't freeze