Cooking with mushrooms is an easy way to add extra flavour to your favourite meals. These edible fungi are loaded with powerful antioxidants and come in varieties that range in texture, taste. and size.
Whether it’s white button, cremini, portobello or shiitake mushrooms that take your fancy, they all contain varying degrees of protein and fibre. They also contain B vitamins as well as a powerful antioxidant called selenium, which helps to support the immune system and prevent damage to cells and tissues.
Here are some simple tips to help you select, clean, and store the mighty mushroom.
How to choose fresh mushrooms
Mushrooms can sometimes look pretty odd, but selecting them does not need to be intimidating. Whether you are cooking with the popular and delicate white mushroom, large, steak-like portobellos, or meaty shiitakes, you will want to select those with a texture that is firm and smooth. Moisture and mushrooms don’t mix, so select those that are dry, but not dried out and rough.
When shopping for mushrooms, look for ones that don’t have any greyish-brown spots on their caps that can mark decay. What to look for depends on which kind of mushrooms you’re buying. Mushrooms are fresh if they are firm, plump, and free from bruises with no visible moisture on the outside. Avoid slimy or spotted mushrooms. On the underside of the mushroom, examine the moist area near the gills under the cap as well. The gills should be tight as these will spread open as mushrooms age. The bottom of the stem can be a little discoloured, but should not be overly dry, mushy, or starting to shred apart.
For white or cremini mushrooms, make sure they are firm, plump and clean. The cap should be attached to the stem. Portobello mushrooms have a rich, robust taste, ideal for the BBQ. Give them a sniff as they should smell like the earth and have fresh-looking gills. Shiitake mushrooms have an earthy, almost smoky flavour, making them a great addition to any flavoursome dish. They should have smooth, firm caps and be tender, not dry but not slimy either.
As for the presence of dirt, it is no indication of freshness or quality. Cleaner mushrooms are better to work with as they require less cleaning, but a little dirt on the cap or clustered near the stem is not a problem.
How to clean mushrooms
Before cooking mushrooms or adding them to your favourite dish, it’s important to give them a quick clean. Mushrooms grow low to the ground and tend to still be a bit dirty when sold in stores. The key to great-tasting mushrooms is to buy them fresh and clean them without letting them get waterlogged as mushrooms absorb water like sponges.
Use a damp paper towel or a soft mushroom brush to wipe each mushroom to remove any dirt. You can lightly rinse the mushrooms with cool water and pat dry with paper towels, but do not soak the mushrooms as they won’t brown nicely when cooked if they’re full of water.
How to store mushrooms
Mushrooms can start to deteriorate quite quickly and, if bought pre-packaged, they’re often best kept in their original packaging in the fridge. Mushrooms need to breathe so don’t store them in a plastic bag. If you buy loose mushrooms then they should be stored in a paper bag or in a lidless container wrapped with plastic that is punched with a few air holes and stored in the fridge.
Fresh mushrooms should last at least three to five days under optimal conditions. By following these basic principles, caring for your mushrooms will ensure that they stay fresh and full of goodness for you to enhance your mealtime cooking.
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