An edible mushroom is a mushroom that can potentially be safely eaten, including thousands of types of mushrooms that are regularly harvested. Some species that cannot be easily cultivated, such as the truffle or matsutake, are highly prized. On the other hand, some edible mushrooms may have extremely bad taste, such as the Bitter bolete mushroom.
Before assuming that any wild mushroom is edible, check safety rules and be sure of its identification.
History of mushroom use
The pharaohs of Egypt enjoyed mushrooms so much, that they decreed mushrooms could only be eaten by royalty and that no commoner could even touch them, thus giving the royal family the entire available supply. In some parts of Eurasia, especially in Russia and Nordic countries, mushrooms are an important part of the diet. Several mushrooms are especially tasty and many are rich on nutrients. Mushrooms are also easily preserved, and historically have provided additional nutrition over winter.
Many prehistoric and a few modern cultures around the world used psychedelic mushrooms for ritualistic purposes. Before 10,000 BCE while people were still hunting and gathering as a part of every day life, women did the gathering. Women were said to be blessed with the ability to see in the dim light so they were successful in foraging for mushrooms and fungi amongst other things. Mushroom cultivation reached the United States in the late 1800s with imported spores from Mexico. Some species such as death cap are extremely poisonous and have been deliberately used as instruments of assassination.
Mycophagy (my-CAH-fa-jee)(mai'kɒfədʑi), the act of consuming mushrooms, dates back to the times of ancient Roman Caesars. They would have a food taster taste the mushrooms before the Caesar to make sure they were safe.
Current culinary use
A fraction of the many fungi consumed by humans are currently cultivated and sold commercially. Pioneers such as Paul Stamets are introducing more into cultivation. Commercial cultivation is important ecologically, as there have been concerns of depletion of larger fungi such as chanterelles in Europe, possibly because the group has grown so popular yet remains a challenge to cultivate.
Commercially cultivated fungi
- Agaricus bisporus, also known as champignon and the button mushroom, the most extensively cultivated mushroom in the world, accounting for 38% of the world production of cultivated mushrooms. This species also includes the portobello and crimini mushrooms.
- Agaricus campestris
- Auricularia polytricha or Auricularia auricula-judae (Tree ear fungus), two closely related species of jelly fungi that are commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
- Flammulina velutipes, the "winter mushroom", also known as enokitake in Japan
- Gyromitra esculenta is cultivated by the Finns. This mushroom is deadly poisonous if eaten raw, but highly regarded when correctly prepared (see below).
- Hypsizygus tessulatus (also Hypsizygus marmoreus), called shimeji in Japanese, it is a common variety of mushroom available in most markets in Japan.
- Lentinus edodes, also known as shiitake, oak mushroom. Lentinus edodes is largely produced in Japan, China and South Korea. Lentinus edodes accounts for 10% of world production of cultivated mushrooms. Common in Japan, China, Australia and North America.
- Pleurotus species, The oyster mushroom and king trumpet mushroom. Pleurotus mushrooms are the second most important mushrooms in production in the world, 25% of total world production of cultivated mushrooms. Pleurotus mushrooms are world-wide, China is the major producer. Several species can be grown on carbonaceous matter such as straw or newspaper. In the wild they are usually found growing on wood.
- Sparassis crispa - recent developments have led to this being cultivated in California.
- Tremella fuciformis (Snow fungus), another type of jelly fungus that is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
- Tuber species, (the truffle), Truffles belong to the ascomycete grouping of fungi. The truffle fruitbodies develop underground in mycorrhizal association with certain trees e.g. oak, poplar, beech, and hazel. Being difficult to find, trained pigs or dogs are often used to sniff them out for easy harvesting.
- Volvariella volvacea (the "Paddy straw mushroom.") Volvariella mushrooms account for 16% of total production of cultivated mushrooms in the world.
Other edible fungi
Wild fungi commonly picked and consumed include:
- Amanita caesarea
- Armillaria mellea
- Boletus badius
- Boletus edulis or edible Boletus, native to Europe, known in Italian as Fungo Porcino (plural 'porcini') (Pig mushroom), in German as Steinpilz (Stone mushroom), in Russian as "white mushroom". It also known as the king bolete, cep, is renowned for its delicious flavor. It is sought after worldwide, and can be found in a variety of culinary dishes.
- Boletus elegans
- Cantharellus cibarius (The chanterelle), The yellow chanterelle is one of the best and most easily recognizable mushrooms, and can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. Caution must be used, as there are several types of very poisonous (although not usually lethal) lookalikes.
- Chroogomphus rutilus
- Calvatia gigantea (Giant Puffball)
- Coprinus comatus, the Shaggy mane. Must be cooked as soon as possible after harvesting or the caps will deliquesce and turn to ink. Only the fresh young caps and stems are edible as the mature caps will turn black and unappetizing.
- Cortinarius variecolor
- Craterellus cornucopioides
- Fistulina hepatica
- Grifola frondosa, known in Japan as maitake (also "hen of the woods" or "sheep’s head"); a large, hearty mushroom commonly found on or near stumps and bases of oak trees, and believed to have medicinal properties.
- Hericium erinaceus, a tooth fungus; also called "lion's mane mushroom."
- Hydnum repandum
- Hygrophorus chrysodon
- Lactarius deliciosus
- Lactarius salmonicolor
- Lactarius volemus
- Laetiporous sulphureus (Sulphur shelf). Also known by names such as the "chicken mushroom", "chicken fungus", sulphur shelf is a distinct bracket fungus popular among mushroom hunters.
- Leccinum aurantiacum (Red-capped scaber stalk)
- Leccinum scabrum (Birch bolete)
- Lepiota procera
- Morchella species, (The morel), morels belong to the ascomycete grouping of fungi. They are usually found in open scrub, woodland or open ground in late spring. When collecting this fungus, care must be taken to distinguish it from the poisonous false morel, Gyromitra esculenta.
- Polyporus squamosus
- Polyporus sulphureus
- Rhizopogon luteolus
- Sparassis crispa. Also known as "cauliflower mushroom".
- Suillus bovinus
- Suillus luteus
- Tricholoma matsutake (The Matsutake), a mushroom highly prized in Japanese cuisine.
- Tricholoma terreum
Conditionally edible species
There are treatments to reduce or eliminate the toxicity of certain species to the point that they can be edible. This can be done even with fungi that are widely regarded as toxic.
- Amanita muscaria is edible if parboiled to leach out toxins.. Fresh mushrooms are hallucinogenic and may cause seizures or coma due to the presence of ibotenic acid.
- Coprinopsis atramentaria is edible without special preparation. However, consumption with alcohol is toxic due to the presence of coprine.
- Gyromitra esculenta is eaten by some after it has been parboiled; however, mycologists do not recommend it. Fresh mushrooms are hemolytic- and hepato-toxins due to the presence of gyromitrin.
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