Good old mushrooms. It used to be that the tasteless white “button” variety was our only option; thankfully, with grocery trends going gourmet, we’re now seeing all sorts of mushrooms available in our supermarkets.
There is a whole range of flavors, from bland to rich, nutty to earthy, in types ranging from oyster, portobello and cremini (baby portobellos) to lobster, shiitake and my favorite, chanterelles. Wild mushrooms have some of the best flavors, but also strict seasons, so shoppers have to be prepared to act fast. For example, wild morels are harvested by hand in the Northwest for a short period of time in April and May, weather depending— the availability can be as short as three weeks. And because so many wild mushrooms are poisonous, extreme caution must be taken when foraging yourself. Luckily, there are many varieties being cultivated year-round for us to enjoy in any season.
When buying, look for mushrooms that are firm and evenly colored; avoid specimens that are broken, damaged or have soft spots with a dark-tinged surface— they are past their prime. Mushrooms should be dry on purchase and stored dry. The best storage method is to lay them out evenly on a paper towel with a damp paper towel over top of them. This way, they’ll keep for at least three days in your refrigerator. If you bunch the mushrooms up by storing them in a bag, they will sweat and go bad rather quickly. The same thing happens if washed in water; they become mushy. The best way to clean mushrooms is with a pastry brush flicking away any dirt.
There are endless ways to prepare mushrooms, but these fun and easy recipes particularly highlight each mushroom’s unique flavor.