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Wild Exotic Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been on the proverbial menu for thousands of years but their fame as a culinary delight probably began in 17th century France with the cultivation of the “champignon” or white button mushroom, as it is also known.  The mushroom’s celebrity has come a long way since then.  While the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) is probably the most popular mushroom, a variety of wild and exotic cousins have made their way into American cuisine.

Wild Exotic Mushrooms

The terms wild and exotic are often used inter-changeably when describing mushrooms.  A wild mushroom however is one that is harvested just as the name implies: in the wild. They have not been cultivated and are picked in the wild.  This tends to make them very expensive.  Exotic mushrooms, on the other hand refer to cultivated mushrooms that are not necessarily indigenous or native to a particular region. These mushrooms are considered “specialty” mushrooms .

Among the most popular wild mushrooms are the Masutake, Chanterelle, King Bolete, Hedgehog, Lobster, Cauliflower, Giant Puffball, the Oregon Truffle and the Morel.  While attempts have been made to cultivate the Morel, probably the most popular wild mushroom in North America with some success, it is still considered a wild mushroom.  A great many of these wild mushroom varieties are found in North America but a large number are also native to Eastern Europe, China, South America and South Africa. Wild mushrooms are most often sold fresh but they are sold in dry form as well.

The exotic or “specialty” mushrooms include among others, the Shitake, Miitake, Enoki, Oyster, Pom Pom, as well as the Portabello and Crimini, (relatives of the common button mushroom).  These mushrooms are commercially grown in the United States but many are imported as well . The flavors and textures of these edible mushrooms vary widely.  For example the wild Chanterelelle , a yellow-orange mushroom grown throughout the world is a chewy delicacy with a soft fruity flavor .The exotic Shitake (Lentinula edodes) on the other hand has a soft, supple texture with a characteristic “woodsy” taste .

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