Just Good Food

by John Ryan

 

FAQ on Mushrooms

Mushrooms  

Whites, Browns, and Portobellos

As I sell mushrooms at a farmer's market each Saturday, these are the most frequently asked questions.

Q: You say that portobello mushrooms are simply mature brown mushrooms. If they are really the same mushroom, why do portobellos cost so much more?

A: There are two reasons. A) portobellos take more time to get to that stage, and B) they are riskier.

 

Q: Why is a knob of dirt always on portobello stems?

A: They stay fresh longer if you get them "roots" and all.

 

Q: Is the portobello stem edible?

A: Absolutely! It is good to chop up and add to soup, or add when you sauté, say, zucchini or tomatoes. Try them in my Zucchini with Mushroom Stems recipe.

 

Q: Aren't you supposed to buy mushrooms with tightly closed caps?

A: Talk about dated advice! I swear, it must have been advanced by food prudes who considered it un-mushroom-like behavior to show any gills.

I will say though, if you want closed mushrooms for the sake of appearance, by all means, get them closed. But the gills are a sign of maturity, not a sign of being old.

 

Q: Should mushrooms be peeled?

A: No. Again, it's old-fashioned advice. You know, every summer I hear about a TV chef who scoops out the gills. And I'm asked if it's some kind of secret. Now I can't say the chef is wrong for doing it. For all I know, the dish is good and the chef has a good reason for wanting the gills gone. But I can say that it isn't basic prep like stemming spinach or peeling onions.

 

Q: Do any of these mushrooms have to be cooked?

A: No. Many wild mushrooms need to be cooked, but the whites, browns, and portobellos are fine raw.

 

Q: Can you freeze mushrooms?

A: Not really. If you are really in a position of losing them, you can freeze them and then later simmer them to get a broth. But the mushrooms themselves will have an unappetizing texture.

 
 

Mushrooming Mushrooms

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John Ryan

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

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This page created 1997. Modified August 2007.