Just Good Food

by John Ryan


Mushrooms: Your Port Authority


No doubt about it, mushrooms are coming up everywhere. You've probably noticed browns, portobellos, and shiitakes in supermarkets. Sometimes even oyster mushrooms appear.

Unfortunately, most books that deal with mushrooms focus on wild varieties like morels, chanterelles, and porcini. It's hard to even find "portobello" in an index. The problem is that more and more recipes call for browns and portobellos and the information about them is pretty sketchy. This series starts with the three most popular mushrooms.

Whites, browns, and portobellos—variations on a theme

What makes it hard to introduce these mushrooms is that, aside from their Latin name, Agaricus bisporis, there are no official market names for these mushrooms. I've seen the brown ones called cremini, old fashioned, Italian cream, or Bavarian brown.

And with portobellos...nobody agrees on how to arrange the "o"s and "a"s. You'll see portabella, portobella....

The thing is, all these names hide the fact that whites and browns are actually different strains of the same mushroom. It's similar to the difference between red delicious apples and green delicious apples.

And portobello mushrooms are simply mature brown mushrooms! If you leave a brown mushroom in the soil it will open up like an umbrella. At that point it's called a portobello. (White mushrooms open up the same way, there just isn't a market for them, so farmers pick them before they open.)


Mushrooming Mushrooms


More About Mushrooms


John Ryan

Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.

Just Good Food Archive

This page created 1997. Modified August 2007.