Mushrooms are members of the fungi family, but don’t let that put you off, because the vast majority of them taste absolutely divine. Mushrooms are incredibly diverse and versatile, and as there are so many varieties to choose from, each new one you experience will provide tastes, flavors and textures you’d never previously experienced. Whilst some varieties of mushroom are more common than others, each one will bring something new to the table so it is well worth experiencing as many different varieties as possible. If we were to list every unique form of mushroom we’d be here all day. Instead, what we’ll be doing is listing a few of the more popular, yet slightly unusual forms of mushroom that you’re less likely to see in your local grocery store.
Porcini mushrooms – Porcini mushrooms are synonymous with Italian cuisine and they’re hugely popular all over the world. They provide a very strong and nutty flavor. These mushrooms are far harder to cultivate than other mushrooms, so you know you really have something special when you are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a good porcini. In Italian, the word ‘Porcini’ actually means ‘piglets’, though don’t worry, they don’t actually contain any pork. The mushrooms work incredibly well in risottos with fresh herbs. Dried porcini mushrooms are also delicious and are great for storing where you simply rehydrate them before serving. Porcini passata is another firm favorite and works great with pasta.
Morel mushrooms – Morel mushrooms are wild and are in incredibly high demand. Gathered in the wild rather than being farmed and grown, morel mushrooms taste amazing and they’re incredibly nutritious as well. They’re firm and they provide a woody, earthy, and slightly nutty background taste. Because of their meaty texture they’re a great alternative to meat and can be used stews, casseroles, pies, risottos, and much more besides. If you really want something special, be sure to sample a morel elixir that is fantastic for creating dressings, sauces, and deglazing pans after cooking.
Pholiota mushrooms – Pholiota mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are commonly found growing in the wild at the base of trees, usually in groups. In Greek ‘Pholiota’ means ‘scaly’ which is due to the fact that some varieties of these mushrooms have a series of ‘scales’ on their caps and sometimes on their stems. These mushrooms have a subtle earthy, slightly nutty taste and work incredibly well when pickled and jarred in olive oil.
Oyster mushrooms – And last but not least we have oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms get their name because they look like oysters, and in actual fact, when cooked they have a similar texture to oysters as well. These mushrooms are very unique in that their aromas are sweet and slightly aniseed-like. Because of their subtle nutty taste with licorice undertones, many Asian-inspired dishes utilize oyster mushrooms. These mushrooms are very easy to grow, which is why they’re the most commonly cultivated mushroom in the world. Well, that, and the fact that they taste amazing as well.