Mushrooms are a type of fungus. There are many varieties, many of which grow wild and some of which are poisonous. For this reason, it is never advisable to pick or eat wild mushrooms unless you are an expert. Here are some of the most popular cultivated mushrooms:
• Button, cup and flat are all varieties of the same mushroom. Button is the youngest and mildest flavoured, while the flat mushroom is the most open and most maturely flavoured of the three.
• Portobello mushrooms are flat mushrooms with a firm, meaty texture, ideal to grill for breakfast.
• Chestnut mushrooms are younger versions of portobello.
• Oyster mushrooms were originally wild mushrooms but are now widely cultivated. They are named after their colour rather than their flavour; they’re fan-shaped and contain a lot of moisture, so are slippery in texture after cooking.
• Shiitake mushrooms are used in oriental cooking. They have a pronounced meaty scent and flavour, which makes them ideal to add to meat dishes.
Look for firm mushrooms. The gills of the mushroom should be bright, dry and firm with no signs of sponginess.
Either quickly rinse and then pat dry or, brush or wipe with a damp cloth to remove any soil that may be clinging to them. Trim off any damaged stalks, but only peel if they are very discoloured. Mushrooms should never be eaten raw. If using in salads, blanch for 15 seconds, then leave to cool before adding them to your dish. They're also great sliced and fried in a little butter to serve with grilled meats. Larger mushrooms can be either grilled, baked and stuffed. You can also use them to make a tasty topping on pizzas.
Remove from plastic bags or containers as these can cause condensation and mould. Store instead in a paper bag, where they will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge.