Forget the Button: Try These Interesting Mushroom Varieties

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Forget the Button: Try These Interesting Mushroom Varieties

Don’t like mushrooms? You’re not alone. Many find their sometimes-rubbery, almost meat-like texture to be unappealing, and others dislike their earthy flavor profile. But maybe you’re just eating the wrong mushrooms. According to the Mushroom Council, button mushrooms, the white or brown plain-looking type you see in just about every grocery store in the country, are the most widely consumed mushroom variety in the U.S. They account for a whopping 90% of the mushrooms we eat, which means a lot of us haven’t even experienced the wide array of mushroom varieties we could be eating. Different mushroom species have wildly varying flavors and textures, so it’s worth giving them a try if you haven’t yet been acquainted with them.

It’s time to expand our mushroom vocabulary. By seeking out these sometimes hard-to-find mushroom varieties, you may just discover that you don’t hate them as much as you thought you did. In fact, you may discover that you actually have a new favorite food. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most delicious, slightly more obscure mushroom varieties out there.

1. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s manes look downright strange. The bright white mushrooms have a frilly texture that’s about as far from a button mushroom’s appearance as you can imagine. The flavor is rather mild and much less earthy than what you’d get with a button mushroom, and the texture is similar to that of cooked seafood. I think lion’s mane is at its best when it’s thickly sliced and fried to perfection. Those frills get nice and crispy, offering an unbeatable crunch that’ll make you want to go in for seconds. Put one of those slices on some bread with a few condiments and some veggies, and you have the perfect mushroom sandwich—no portobello needed.

2. Enoki

Enoki mushrooms have long been popular in certain East Asian countries, where they’re likely to be boiled or fried, but they’re gaining popularity on an international level these days. They’re also my personal favorite type of mushroom because of their long, thin stems that offer a slight crunch when raw and soften when cooked. Add some enoki mushrooms to your next hot pot spread, you may forget about all the other ingredients you have on the table.

3. Oyster Mushrooms

Compared to some of the other mushroom varieties on this list, oyster mushrooms can be relatively easy to find. They’re delicious when eaten raw, but they really shine when they’re prepared and cooked like meat. They have a deliciously velvety texture that’s enhanced with the addition of plenty of fat—I prefer olive oil. Well-cooked oyster mushrooms can mimic meat in a variety of dishes, but I think they’re delicious enough to stand on their own.

4. Morels

If you’ve gotten used to the low prices of button mushrooms, you may be a bit shocked when you see the price tag on a container full of morels. Morels are so pricey because they’re not widely cultivated. Instead, the majority of the morel supply is foraged, which is a time-intensive process that’s difficult to do on a large scale. But if you’re willing to shell out some cash to feed your fungi craving, you have to try morels. They have a distinctly nutty flavor to them that’s best when it’s allowed to shine—you’re not going to want to cover them up with a ton of other ingredients.

5. Chanterelles

Chanterelles aren’t just tasty; their bright golden hue means they’ll attract your eyes before they charm your taste buds. Chanterelle lovers often claim that the fungi has a slight fruitiness to it, but you’re not going to pick up on any sweetness. I love chanterelles when they’re cooked in oil so the edges get nice and crispy. Generally, you’ll be able to find chanterelles throughout late spring or early summer and into the fall months.

6. Maitake

Maitakes, also known as hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, are known for their almost peppery flavor, and they tend to be earthier than your average button mushroom. Their frilly, feathery edges give them an unusual textural quality that lends itself to a wide variety of cooking methods. If you want to keep things simple, sauté them in some oil with a few seasonings, and you have a delicious side dish. You can also fry them or add them to soup for a silky meat alternative.

7. Hedgehog Mushrooms

Want some chanterelles but can’t manage to get your hands on any? You may want to turn to hedgehog mushrooms, which are similar in texture. On the flavor front, though, they have a deliciously meaty note to them that makes them one of our favorite meat replacements. They’re also cheaper than chanterelles, so you don’t have to break the bank just to get the mushroom fix you’re after. Add them to a stir fry for a savory, texturally dense edible experience.

8. Black Trumpet Mushrooms

Black trumpets are also related to chanterelles, which is why, apart from the color, they look so similar. But trumpet mushrooms are best known for their unique rich smokiness. They’re delicious in pasta and risotto dishes where they’re really allowed to shine: You don’t want to cover them up with too many other competing flavors.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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