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Sunday, September 29, 2019

How to Cook With Wild Mushrooms

varieties of wild mushrooms in a bowl on a wood table
Rebecca Fondren Photo/Shutterstock

Early fall is the perfect time to branch away from basic button mushrooms and experiment with the wilder varieties. We’re talking Enokis, Chanterelles, and all the other fungi fit for cozy autumn dinners.

Mushrooms are an odd part of the omnivore’s diet. They’re not a vegetable, or fruit, but rather, a fungus. And while that word often triggers vile images of fuzzy molds and dirty pond scum, mushrooms are fungus we’ve fallen for. Their umami flavor and spongy texture are vital components in many dishes.

Most Americans stick to button or crimini mushrooms. But, as we head into fall, other types of wild mushrooms become more prevalent in farmer’s markets and health food stores across the nation. Now let’s be clear, these “wild” mushrooms are either cultivated on farms or found by experienced mushroom foragers.

We do not, under any circumstance, recommend you attempt to forage your own mushrooms. Stick to your local Whole Foods or a trusted purveyor of these wild fungi. Remember, it’s a thin line between finding a morel and meeting your mortality.

Common Wild Mushroom Varieties and Where to Buy Them

Most of us know what to do with a button mushroom or even a portobello. But, there are a lot of other varieties that come in odd shapes and sizes. Here, we’re featuring some of the most common edible forest fungi and listing where you’re most likely to find them in stores.

Chanterelles: These are native to the Pacific Northwest, as well as parts of the UK. They’re yellow and orange-hued with a fruity scent and a slight peppery flavor. You’re likely to find them in the US from September to early December, especially in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Oyster Mushrooms: These grow in most of the world’s subtropical rainforests, including many regions of the US. They can also be commercially cultivated and so, are often easier to find in grocery stores. While the reason why is unclear, oyster mushrooms do not grow in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. So, finding them on the west coast can be tricky.

Shiitake Mushrooms: This earthy mushroom is native to Japan, but is commercially cultivated throughout the world. They can be challenging to find fresh in stores, but dried varieties are commonly available in regular supermarkets throughout the year.

Enoki Mushrooms: These are another commercially cultivated wild variety that’s gaining popularity in the United States, but can still be tough to find. Watch for them at farmer’s markets and in farm co-op boxes from December to March.

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