Although mushrooms are available all year, October has been deemed National Mushroom Month by The Mushroom Bureau which is not surprising as they are a rather ‘autumnal’ aren’t they? Urvashi Roe explores the range of varieties available in the UK, discusses the health benefits of these fantastic fungi and shares some of her favourite mushroom recipes
A range of varieties now available across the British Isles
There are a number of varieties that we can get widely all across the UK nowadays. First off, plain old White mushrooms. Probably the cheapest of the bunch and very easy to find the different types - button, closed cup, open cup and large. The white colour is because they’ve been grown indoors and out of the light. Conversely brown mushrooms such as Chestnut and Portobello are denser and nuttier in flavour and have been left to grow in size.
Oyster mushrooms were first cultivated in Germany during WW2 and are probably my favourite. They remind me of dainty fairy wings and their flavour is rather dainty and delicate too. They come in all sorts of beautiful colours – brown, grey, pink and yellow.
In contrast Enoki mushrooms are crisp. They are named after the enoki tree in Japan and sometimes also called the golden needle mushroom. Another Japanese mushroom is the wonderful clustered Shimeji mushrooms. These are sold in their clusters because the actual mushroom head is very small and the flavour is in the long, thin stem.
Another variety which originates from Japan is the Shiitake mushroom which comes in a dried and powder form as well as fresh. It is meatier than the other Japanese varieties and even more so than Portobello mushrooms but also has a smoky flavour.
Some of the most expensive varieties are Morels and Porcini. Morels grow in dry and sandy areas. They have a conical shaped cap and honeycomby insides but are actually quite hollow. If you find a patch, you’re very lucky as they are expensive when sold! Porcini are also sometimes known as Cep mushrooms and are the crème de la crème of the funghi world.
Fantastic funghi health benefits
I’ve learned a few interesting facts about mushrooms recently. For example an 80g serving contributes towards your 5-a-day. That’s just one large flat mushroom. On top of that, if you are a vegetarian like me, they are rich in protein.
Aside from that they have very little fat or calories and are rich in fibre so you will feel fuller for longer as well as keep those free radicals at bay because of all the antioxidants packed in these fantastic funghis.
Great for all kinds of meals
The final great thing about mushrooms is that they are so versatile. Aside from desserts, you can find a host of recipes for starters, canapés or mains. I chose these Wild mushroom, spinach and goat’s cheese vol-au-vents with poached duck egg and pimento cream by Mark Dodson to start. I didn’t use the eggs as I wanted something light.
I followed this with a main course of Risotto Milanese with wild mushrooms by Galton Blackiston. This is a staple in our house during the autumn. Especially now the nights are getting a little darker and colder.
I tend to use whichever mushrooms I can find at the market like the chestnut ones in this picture.
How do you like to eat your mushrooms? Do you prefer them raw or cooked gourmet style? What’s the most expensive mushroom dish you’ve ever eaten?