Cooking Basic ingredients of Italian cuisine Mushrooms


The mushrooms: description, nutritive value, choosing, cleaning, cooking ...

penny bun or cep or porcino ready to be cleaned

Raw cultivated mushrooms

Nutritive value in 100 g edible part

Edible part % 95%
Water g 90.4
Protein g 3.7
Total fat g 0.2
Carbohydrates g 0.8
Total dietary fiber g 2.3
Food energy kcal 20
kJ 82
Sodium mg 5
Potassium mg 320
Iron mg 0.8
Calcium mg 6
Phosphorus mg 100
Thiamin mg 0.09
Riboflavin mg 0.13
Niacin mg 4.0
Vitamin A µg 0
Vitamin C mg 3
thin tubes on the under surface of a mushroom cap

Description. Mushroom is the name for the fleshy fruiting body bearing spores of a fungus. The vegetative part of a fungus is called mycelium; mycelium is formed by a mass of thin branches that are like threads (hyphae). Mushroom is produced above ground on soil or on its food source while mycelium is the undeground part of a fungus.
The fruiting bodies come in a wild variety of colours, shapes and sizes. The world-known cultivated mushroom is the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus).
Mushrooms are placed in a Kingdom of their own, the Kingdom of Fungi. They are neither animal or plant. In fact they have no green chlorophyll as the plants have and so they can't make ... Besides their cells have a wall, on the contrary animal cells have no wall.
Generally they have a stem, a cap and gills (lamellae) on the underside of the cap.
Here we are going to tell only about edible mushrooms.
Fungi are critical components of the ecosystem, and coupled with bacteria and insects, recycle all dead matter over time.

Mushroom types. Porcini (or ceps) and Caesar's mushrooms are well known mushrooms in the world. In Italy we have the most famous types in Tuscany, Calabria and Piedmont. We must remember Borgotaro's porcino, an IGP mushroom in Parma that includes 4 species: Boletus aestivalis, Boletus pinophilus, Boletus aereus e Boletus edulis.
Other types: chanterelles, honey fungus, oyster and morel mushrooms.

Mushrooms can be wild or cultivated.
Wild mushrooms can be found on the ground at or near the base of stumps of tree trunks of dead (dying or aging) hardwoods (oaks, chestnut, beech, black gums, elms, maples). Some mushrooms are available all year round but for other mushrooms it's necessary to wait for the right season. Before picking mushrooms answer to these simple questions: are you absolutely sure to be able in identifying the edible species? do you know if there are any restrictions on the quantity you can pick?
Cultivated mushrooms. The white button mushroom is also known as champignon of Paris, white mushroom, table mushroom, cremini, Champignon mushroom, crimini mushroom, Swiss brown mushrooms, Roman brown mushrooms, Italian brown, Italian mushroom or simplier common mushroom or cultivated mushroom (Agaricus bisporus, Agaricus hortensis, Agaricus pratensis). His cultivation began in France in the XIX century and then spread all over the world from there.

Other cultivated species are:

  • Agaricus violaceus known also as Violet cort or Violet webcap that is cultivated on dead leaves.
  • Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushrooms) cultivated on dead woods
  • Shiitake, exotic mushrooms, very tasty and with white flesh; it's cultivated on dead trunks of trees. (oak, chestnut, beech, alder, gum, or sugar maple)

Dried mushrooms. There are many methods that can be used to dry mushrooms. Generally the most common mushroom that is dried is Boletus edulis also known as punny ben or cep or porcino in Italian. The mushrooms are sliced after cleaning and then dried in the sun or under the wind or in special dryer. Mushrooms have more concentrated flavor with this technique and so you can use less amount compared with fresh mushrooms.
Dried mushrooms must be soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes (we say it would be better 60 minutes) before cooking. You should also use their soaking water for the best result.
Be careful when you are going to buy dried mushrooms. The package must be undamaged. Prefer dried mushrooms with whole slices and not cut into pieces. In Italy we are used to make a lot of recipes with dried porcini. For example porcini risotto (or mushroom risotto).
In Italy we also find dried chanterelles and other varieties, especiallly assorted dried mushrooms.

Poisonous mushrooms. We remember you there are a lot of poisonous mushrooms. Be careful when you are picking them up. Pick up only the species you know very well. Besides you must not believe people who tell you it's easy to recognize the poisonous mushrooms from their color changes once cut or testing them with silver, garlic or onion! These tests are not scientific, at all!

Nutritive properties. We have listed the nutritive value of the most common mushroom or cultivated mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). The other fungi are not very different from these values.
As you can see in the table mushrooms are hypocaloric and poor in fat. For this reason they are used as slimming food very much. They are rich in minerals, phosphorus and water. Take note of this: 100 g (3 1/2oz) dried porcini derive from 1 kg (2lb and 3 1/4oz) fresh ones! It depends on the great amount of water (95%).
Their flavor depends on 38 different substances that persist even after their drying process.

For more detail about mushroom recipe ideas read the page dedicated to mushrooms on The Italian

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