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Mother Nature has provided us with hundreds and hundreds of fungi varieties, but for those interested in cooking and eating these fungi, there are three main groups: the cultivated “common” mushrooms (also known as “button” mushrooms), the cultivated “exotic” mushrooms (like shiitake), or else wild mushrooms like porcini, chanterelle, and truffles—which are a subterranean mushroom.
Here’s a brief guide with suggestions on how to choose them, clean them, and conserve them.
- The cap should be firm to the touch and slightly moist: the drier it is, the older it is. There shouldn’t be holes or dark spots.
- The gills (the section under the cap) should be in tact, and never slimy or spotted, which indicates overly ripe.
- The stem should be firm and without holes. The tougher parts can be used for sauces or soups.
- Mushrooms have a spongy texture and therefore instead of being thoroughly washed, it’s better to pass them quickly under running water after having placed them in a strainer. Too much soaking will remove their flavor and aroma
- Use a sharp knife to remove dirt and mold. You can delicately brush the cap to clean it.
- A tooth brush can be used to eliminate stubborn debris, and damp paper towels are perfect for the final polish
- Mushrooms are best consumed within 24 hours of purchasing or picking, as they quickly lose their freshness. They are best kept in a paper bag in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
- If you wish to freeze them, first wash them, slice them and then blanch them in acidulated water. After draining well, divide them into separate bags. Porcini mushrooms should be sliced conserved raw.
- If you happen to have a large quantity of porcini mushrooms, you can conserve them in various ways: either dried, or jarred in oil or under brine.