The Abalone, White Elf mushroom, or Pleurotus cystidiosus is known for its velvety yet crunchy texture. Its name is derived from its pale color and flat, disk-like shape, reminiscent of abalone shellfish. Its shape has inspired other names from mushroom enthusiasts including Bear's Head, Monkey's Head, Lion's Mane, Old Man's Beard, and Satyr's Beard. Abalone mushrooms are a great source of protein with many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
The Button mushroom or White mushroom has a tightly closed cap, which hides most of its gills. Button mushrooms contain high levels of vitamin D, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Button mushrooms are a great addition to many dishes—both raw and cooked—such as soups, salads, and stir-fries.
Among its many unique features, Chanterelle mushrooms, or Cantharellus cibarius, contain a high concentration of vitamin C, as well as the most carotene of any mushroom (23.1%). Chanterelles have a fruity, flowery flavor and scent with just a hint of pepper. Chanterelles can be found and harvested on nearly every continent, including Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. Depending on the season’s temperature and rainfall, fresh Chanterelles are available from June through September.
Cordyceps sinensis is a medicinal mushroom that has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. While Chinese herbal doctors have used Cordyceps to promote vitality and sexual vigor, recent studies have shown numerous other health benefits. Cordyceps are known to increase blood flow and reduce lactic-acid buildup in muscles. As a result, Cordyceps have been used to enhance athletic performance, staving off muscle fatigue and improving recovery time.
Also know as Velvet Shank mushrooms, Snow Puffs, or Golden Needles, Enoki mushrooms are unique for their elongated stems and small, round caps. The Enoki tends to be sweet and fruity in flavor, and is delicious served raw over salads and in small amounts in sandwiches; cooked Enoki is better for digestion and its nutrients are more easily absorbed. Its texture can be crunchy or even crispy, which is often enhanced after being cooked. The Enoki mushroom is cultivated in dark conditions, giving them a distinct white color. Remember to look for Enoki mushrooms with firm, white, shiny caps.
Also known as Flower mushrooms, Hanalogo mushrooms are a variety of Shiitake mushrooms marked by unique circular patterns and flower-like cracks (not to be mistaken for blemishes) on the mushrooms’ caps. Typically, the patterns are generated under colder growing conditions—thus Hanalogo mushrooms are seasonal with greater availability in winter months. Hanalogo mushrooms are cherished in many Asian cuisines for their distinctive look and bold flavor.
Brown and White Beech Mushrooms
Brown and White Beech mushroom, or Lyophyllum shimeji, is also referred to as Hon Shimeji, Brown Clamshell, or White Clamshell. Shimeji is an umbrella term for more than 20 species of mushrooms, known to be rich in umami tasting compounds, e.g., guanylic acid, glutamic acid, and aspartic acid. Brown and White Beech mushrooms typically grow in dense clusters and feature tan or pale-white caps over short two-inch stems with a crunchy yet moist texture. Brown and White Beech mushrooms should be cooked prior to serving.
King Oyster Mushrooms
Native to an expansive list of geographic regions including the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean regions of Europe, and the Far East, the King Oyster mushroom is also known as the King Trumpet mushroom, French Horn mushroom, and Pleurotus eryngii. The King Oyster mushroom is known for its substantial stem and smooth cap. While the King Oyster mushroom can grow from six to eight inches in length, it is harvested at only a few inches in height for optimal texture and flavor. Depending on its age and exposure to sunlight, its color ranges from a light-to-dark tan or brown.
The Maitake mushroom has a unique texture that complements its oaky, musky flavor. It has firm strands of flesh that give it a crunchy and meaty finish. These mushrooms are more commonly known in the United States as Hen of the Woods mushrooms due to their feather-like appearance and tendency to grow in tuft-like clusters. The Maitake mushroom is native to the Northeastern mountains of Japan and has long been used in Japan as an agent to lower blood pressure. The Maitake mushroom is a good source of protein, vitamin C, and B vitamins.
Matsutake mushrooms tend to be high in price due to their availability and relatively difficult harvesting methods. The highly sought-after mushroom grows primarily in Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Finland, Sweden, and the United States. Depending on the season, Matsutake mushrooms can be very costly. Fresh Matsutake harvested in Japan are nearly extinct and can reach extravagant prices, so imported Matsutake are highly popular and in-demand. Matsutake mushrooms are available fresh, frozen, dried, and freeze-dried.
Due to their unique shape, texture, and flavor, Morel mushrooms have been given many nicknames, including Dryland Fish, Hickory Chicken, Miracle, and Sponge mushrooms. While its old name “Morchella” has German origins, “Morel” originated from Latin roots, Maurus, meaning brown. Since Morels grow in very unique environments—often shortly after forest fires—commercial Morels are entirely harvested wild. Morels are available fresh, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried.
As their name would suggest, Oyster mushrooms have a fragrance, shape, and taste that are not unlike those of oysters. Grown in clusters—adding to their oyster-like appearance—these mushrooms have very small stalks and broad caps with fanning, scalloped edges. Recent studies have shown that the Oyster mushroom contains agents that may reduce cholesterol. Depending on its exposure to sunlight, the Oyster mushroom ranges from pale white to gray or tan.
Persimmon Enoki Mushrooms
Often heralded as the new-and-improved Enoki mushroom, the Persimmon Enoki combines the delicate texture and shape of the long-cherished Enoki with deeper, more dynamic flavor and color. The Persimmon Enoki mushroom is native to Japan. With the same crunchy texture as the Enoki, the Persimmon Enoki adds bite to any dish with its bold color and flavor.
As one of the most ubiquitous mushrooms, Porcini mushrooms can be found on nearly every continent, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. Like other mushrooms under the genus Boletus, the Porcini, or Boletus edulis, has tubes winding downwards beneath the rim of the cap instead of gills. Porcinis are available fresh, dried, frozen, and freeze-dried.
Portabella and Crimini Mushrooms
When harvested in its early button stage, the Portabella is called Crimini or Portabelini. As it grows to full maturity, the Portabella exposes its gills and its cap grows up to seven inches in diameter. Often used as a meat substitute, the Portabella has a thick cap that is easy to prepare and cook—often in place of a steak or even as a hamburger patty. The Portabella mushroom ranges from tan to brown in color. Unlike other types of mushrooms, the Portabella is more desirable when it is mature, as opposed to younger-harvested varieties.
The world’s most widely cultivated specialty mushroom, the Shiitake mushroom possesses a distinctly rich, earthy, smoky flavor. Although the Shiitake mushroom has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 6,000 years in China, recent studies have identified them as rich in powerful antioxidants with cancer-fighting properties. Shiitake mushrooms are characterized by a light tan to brown color with large round caps. They are high in iron and a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and protein.
Since Truffle mushrooms grow entirely underground, they are among the most difficult mushrooms to harvest. Among the hundreds of species of Truffles, the most prized culinary delights are found under the category of Tuber. The three most renowned varieties of Truffles are White or Alba Truffle (Tuber magnatum), Black or Black Périgord Truffle (Tuber melanosporum), and Chinese Truffle (Tuber sinensis or Tuber indicum). Different types of Truffles are available during varied times of the year and always at a high—if not conspicuously high—price.
Wood Ear Mushrooms
The Wood Ear mushroom, or Auricularia polytricha, also known as Tree Ear, Dry Black Fungus, Silver Ear, Mook Yee, Cloud Ear, and Judas' Ear, has a thick, skin-like texture that gives it a crunchy quality when served. As its flavor is inherently mellow, the Wood Ear mushroom is more popularly known for its texture. As its name would suggest, Wood Ear mushrooms actually resemble ears that grow on trees. The flat, panel-like caps can grow anywhere from an inch to nearly a foot wide. The Wood Ear mushroom is known to fight heart disease by preventing blood clots.