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Jump to:-    Mushroom Nutritional Value  | Mushrooms in Medicine  |  Mushrooms in Cooking  |  Types of Fresh Mushrooms  |  Dried Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not a vegetable, but the fruiting body of a fungi,  starting life as microscopic spores which so small that they are not visible to the naked eye. It is believed that they have been in existence on earth for 90 million years, and whilst many ancient cultures used and revered them, particularly  for medicinal purposes, it wasn’t until the 1650s that they started to be cultivated  in limestone caves on the outskirts of Paris and it was to be 200 years later in 1891 that the first book on mushroom growing would be published.

Nutritional values of Mushrooms

Recent reports have shown mushrooms to be a "superfood" and at only 13 calories in 100g/4oz mushrooms, also easy on the waistline. Varieties  are a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and selenium, three essential B-vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid and are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. In addition, they contain virtually no fat or cholesterol and naturally low in sodium and  a good source of fibre. A 75g/3oz serving of portabella mushroom caps provides more potassium than a banana. There are

Medicinal Uses of Mushrooms

Today mushrooms are eaten worldwide primarily as a culinary food ingredient with most of us having forgotten their medicinal and nutritional value.

Mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes in oriental medicine for over 7,000 years and the ancient Egyptians recognised their healing powers over 6,500 years ago. They were also acknowledged in the writings of Hippocrates, he of Hippocratic Oath fame,  and the herbalists Pliny (Roman) , Dioscorides, and Galen (greek).

Some of the current medicinal drugs derived from fungi include Statins which control cholesterol levels, Cyclosporin which stops rejection in transplant patients and, of course the 40's wonder-drug,  penicillin.

Mushrooms in Cooking

Mushrooms are the favourite of many chefs and cooks due to their versatility and variety. They are suitable for all methods of cooking including microwaving and larger specimens are excellent when stuffed with the filling of choice then baked.

Most mushrooms do not need to be peeled. Simply trim the stem end if necessary and wipe clean.   They can then be cooked whole, cut in halves or quarters, sliced thickly or thinly or chopped before cooking. Larger stems can be separated from the caps before cooking by either twisting off or cutting.

There are hundreds of recipes using mushrooms on this site. To find them all, use the search facility at the bottom of this page. for general information about preparing and cooking mushrooms see How to prepare and cook mushrooms.


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Commonly Cultivated White and Brown Mushrooms

The white Agaricus bisporus mushroom, discovered in 1932 by Lewis F Lambert in Pennsylvania, accounts for 95% sales in Britain. It is picked at four stages (grades) of its growing cycle, these are button, closed cup, open cup and large flat.


Button mushroom

Button Mushrooms

These are picked young and if left unpicked will develop into closed cup mushrooms.

Closed cup mushrooms

Closed Cup Mushrooms

If left unpicked these will develop into  open cup mushrooms. The longer they are left to mature, the more the flavour develops.

Open cup mushrooms

Open Cup Mushrooms

Open cup mushrooms have a partly broken veil and pinkish gills visible. If left unpicked these will develop into  flat mushroom with the brown gills visible.

Large flat mushrooms

Large Flat Mushrooms

Large flat mushrooms have completely broken veils, dark brown gills and flat caps.

Brown mushrooms

Brown Mushrooms

Agaricus brunnescens mushrooms are a popular alternative to the white types above. The are generally sold in four sizes, each of which have their own names:  Buttons = Crimini or Portobellini; Closed = Brown Cap or Chestnut; Large Open = breakfast;  Large Flat = Portobello.


Exotic and Wild Mushrooms


Black Trumpet Mushrooms

The cap margin is waxy, the outer surface smooth to wrinkled and the brittle flesh is thin and fragrant. Very versatile in cooking; goes well with fish. Substitutes: Chanterelle, Hedgehog

Blewit Mushrooms

Blue tinted stalks and white caps. Prized more for their look rather than flavour, which is mild.  Substitutes: White mushrooms, shiitakes

Cep Mushrooms

Also known as Porcini these are prized in Europe. Tan to brown caps ranging from 2.5cm/1-inch to 25cm/10-inches.  They have a meaty texture and good flavour.  Substitutes: Hedgehog,  Portobello

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Highly prized for their flavour, colour and texture.  Fresh chanterelles are best; dried Chanterelles have less flavour and tend to be rubbery. Substitutes: Hedgehog, white, Oyster, Morel   

Chicken of the Woods

This got its name because it has the texture of cooked chicken.  Bright Orange top with yellow under side. Best when they young and very tender.
 Substitutes: Portobello, Shiitake Porcini

Enoki Mushrooms

These are white and have crisp thin stems about 7.5cm/3-inches long and tiny caps. A famous delicacy  in Japan. Usually sold with the root cluster still attached. Often eaten raw. Substitutes: Oyster

Hedgehog Mushrooms

Cream caps with white stems and flesh. They have an excellent flavour.  Substitutes: Chanterelles, Porcini

Hon-shimeji mushrooms

Hon-shimeji Mushrooms

Very small with a dark cap, light gills and long stalk. Mostly sold with the root cluster still attached.


Morel Mushrooms

Morels are highly prized for their rich, earthy flavour. They have hollow caps suitable for stuffing, very dark brown with lighter pits and a whitish stem .   Dried morels are excellent.   Substitutes: Shiitake, Chanterelles. Never eat raw.  

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

Very  delicate available in brown, grey, pink and yellow prized for their smooth texture and subtle, flavour.  Often commercially cultivated. Substitutes:  Enoki, Chanterelle

Porcini Mushrooms

Also known as Ceps these are prized in Europe. Tan to brown caps ranging from 2.5cm/1-inch to 25cm/10-inches.  They have a meaty texture and good flavour.  Substitutes: Hedgehog,  Portobello

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms

These have dark brown caps and white gills with an earthy flavour and meaty texture. Often cultivated. Dried shiitakes are excellent, with a more intense flavour. Substitutes:  Crimini, Enoki, Straw, Porcini

Straw Mushrooms

Semi closed dark brown caps with a thickish white stem. Often difficult to find fresh, but tinned straw mushrooms work well in most recipes. Substitutes: Enoki, Crimini

Dried Mushrooms

Most fresh mushrooms are also available dried and drying mushrooms is the traditional method for preserving them. Often the flavour and texture is enhanced and intensified, making them an excellent item to have in the store cupboard.

Although they can be directly added to  soups and stews, for most other types of dishes it is best to reconstitute them in hot water for about 20 minutes. Do not use boiling water unless you wish to dilute the flavour. The water in which they have been soaked can also be used however it's advisable to strain it to get rid of any grit which may be present.

As the flavour is often more concentrated, unless you are sure, it's best to use a smaller quantity than you would do if you were using fresh mushrooms - perhaps half.



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