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Mushrooms are one of nature’s most exquisite gifts to us. They are extraordinarily versatile, can be baked, fried, stuffed, stewed, deep-fried, sautéed or, of course, eaten raw. They can have a whole range of flavour profiles, depending on the type of mushroom, from nutty and hearty to delicate and sweet, aromatic to the flavoursome and everything in between.
What is best about mushrooms is how they combine with other foods. Traditionally we would have mostly eaten mushrooms around the autumn period when they naturally come into season, but these days we can get almost any type of edible mushroom at any time of the year, so we can incorporate them into spring or summer salads to really get the most of their incredible flavours.
Mushrooms work brilliantly in salads and a mushroom salad is a delicious side or main course for vegans or for the meat eaters. You can have a hot or cold mushroom salad, with a mix of greens, vegetables, fruits or grains like bulgur or quinoa.
Health benefits of mushrooms
There are many health benefits associated with eating mushrooms and they are a great source of Vitamin B and potassium. They contain no fat and are low in cholesterol, salt and calories and, unusually for this type of ‘functional food’, they taste absolutely fantastic. Mushrooms are one of the most ancient forms of sustenance for humans and evidence has been found that we consumed them in the Stone-Age as hunter-gathers as far back as 19,000 years ago. However, our relationship with mushrooms probably goes back much further. Mushrooms are therefore suitable for anyone on a Paleo diet, but for everyone, our genetic memory recalls mushrooms and eating them, is beyond satisfying.
Mushrooms are basically made up of mostly water so when you cook mushrooms, either pan-frying, grilling or roasting, the water evaporates. That means you get a concentration of flavour, and which combines with the oil, salt and pepper, herbs and other ingredients makes for an intense and very tasty meal.
When frying or sautéing mushrooms, make sure you don’t put too many in the pan at the same time. If you do all the excess water released by the mushrooms will make them soggy you will lose their lovely firm consistency.
Which mushrooms are best for salads?
There is no one correct answer for this as it depends on personal tastes, other ingredients, pairings and condiments, but here is a list of some of the most popular and what they taste. Be very careful when selecting mushrooms to eat as some can be deadly poisonous and do not pick wild mushrooms unless you now or are accompanied by someone who knows exactly what they are doing.
White Button Mushroom
Probably the most popular and versatile mushroom of all it has a very mild flavour that mixes will with other mushrooms and has a very classic mushroom flavour for salads, whether eaten raw or sautéed with salt, pepper, parsley and olive oil.
Cremini mushrooms are a firm mushroom full of flavour, they go well with other types of mushrooms as well. They go particularly well with garlic for an intense flavour.
Chantarelles are nutty and delicate, they go well with other types of mushrooms and are boosted by a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Great for zingy summer salads.
A savoury and satisfying mushroom that has a fibrous quality that stands up to long cooking times. Goes with everything. Always remove stems before cooking.
Delicate and sweet in flavour they have a beautiful pink colour that are pleasing to see in pink in salads of greens and purples. Stir-fry briefly to not spoil the delicate flavour.
Hearty and woodsy flavour the porcini is the ultimate autumnal flavour. Sautee when you can get your hands on fresh wild porcini, otherwise, dried porcini mushrooms need to be soaked for a few hours before. The soaked mushrooms can be roasted with oil or butter before you put in a salad.
Wild mushrooms usually have a more delicate flavour and so it is with the morel. Very distinctive honeycomb cap is impressive in any salad, cook with plenty of oil salt and pepper for a superb salad addition. How to clean, prep and cook Morel mushrooms.
Rich and hearty and full of flavour, grill or roast for a perfect meat substitute in a main or side salad. Click here for how to cook Portobello mushrooms and for more recipes.
Enoki mushrooms are a crisp and fresh wild mushroom, delicate in flavour and perfect for salads.
Mushroom salad and matching ingredients
Mushrooms match with just about any vegetable you can think of but in general, with the more woodsy, autumnal flavours like Porcini, Shitake, Morel and Portobello, think tubers, roots and bitter greens. With the more delicate or sweeter mushrooms like Chanterelle Enoki ad Oyster mushrooms, opt for lighter summer greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. Check out Fine Dining Lovers recipe section for more Easy Mushroom Salad Recipes.