Get ready to demystify the incredible world of Mushrooms and learn to make fungi your friend, as the Intuitive Forager provides a go-to guide for unique and gourmet varietals and gives you insider tips on how to select and prepare them like a pro! Plus don’t forget to check out the recipe links at the bottom for some delicious and creative ideas!
The Wild Ones:
Many of our favorites are still considered “Wild Mushrooms” and are found in the wild or essentially grow wild on areas of farmland, and simply refuse to be regularly cultivated – making them all the more precious to find:
Black Trumpet Mushroom:
The cap or “horn” of the Black Trumpet resembles a flower with its delicate and curled edges, albeit a rather gothic one, given its dark charcoal gray to black exterior. The flesh is a deep dark brown to black with a tender yet chewy texture and flavor which is both buttery and slightly smoky, and a pleasant, fruity aroma. Both the delicate texture and rich woodsy flavor of the Black Trumpet make this a Chef favorite. Refusing all attempts to be cultivated, the Black Trumpet is a true “wild” mushroom.
Tips: It’s easy to confuse with its cousin, the Black Chanterelle (which has noticeably visible veins if you are trying to tell the difference). Both the cap and stem are edible and have a similar texture and flavor. High in B12.
Its name likens it to a head of cauliflower, albeit its appearance suggests a leafier and more delicate one. A cap-less varietal of Mushroom, the Cauliflower is a creamy ivory in color and is composed of several layers of frilly “leaves” all connected to a common “base” or stem. It has a crunchy and firm texture, yet because each individual “leaf” is very thin it can be brittle and delicate to handle. It has a mild earthy flavor with nutty undertones and hints of Fennel and gives off a rich musky woodsy aroma.
The Cauliflower Mushroom is most commonly used whole or cut into florets and battered and/or sautéed. It also goes great in soups, broths, or consommés.
Tips: Look for younger, smaller, and evenly colored (ivory to cream) specimens, as the overly large or older mushrooms (look for browning and wilting branches/leaves) can often turn quite bitter and develop a tough texture. Make sure and wash well, as its many leafy layers create lots of hiding places for dirt and debris.
Golden Chanterelle Mushrooms:
Another Wild Mushroom, the Chanterelle (AKA the Golden Chanterelle) can range from a yellowish golden hue to a deeper bright orange. The stems flare up and out (covered in veins or “false gills”) into a wide, slightly wavy cap with ruffled edges. They are a nice dense and meaty mushroom, with a mild earthy flavor full of rich nutty notes and hints of spice, and a bright fruity aroma. Both caps and stems are edible, the stems having a more pronounced fibrous texture.
Wild Mushrooms tend to have stronger flavoring than their more cultivated cousins, and pair particularly well with butter and cream sauces in pastas as well as with other wild mushrooms. They prepare well both sautéed or roasted. Chanterelle’s are especially “spongy” so be careful not to waterlog them
These mushrooms are a great source of Vitamin A, Protein, Potassium, Iron, and several Amino Acids. Chanterelles have a very high content of Vitamin D2 (which helps the body absorb calcium) and may be why insects and slugs show little interest in this Fungi.
Reminiscent of its namesake’s shell, the Lobster Mushroom is made up of a colorful array of fiery orange and red hues, all supporting a mottled and almost crustacean looking and highly textured cap. It’s flesh is meaty and grainy with an artichoke heart like texture and bold flavor not unlike that of shellfish. Its important to note the Lobster Mushroom is actually an example of one fungus attacking another as the “Lobster” fungus attacks a host mushroom, eventually covering it in the tell-tale vibrant colors and interrupting and altering its growth pattern into the erratic and mottled shapes of the Lobster Mushroom. Given this fact, the flavor can very slightly depending on the underlying host varietal, as the natural robust flavoring of the Lobster fungus takes on underlying notes of its host.
Lobster Mushrooms retain their shape and texture even after cooking, and can be baked into dishes or added to soups and stews, they also work great for drying, as the process locks in their distinct flavor.
The Morel’s unique features make it easy to spot, it has almost no stem and is comprised primarily of its long almost cylindrical dome-like “cap”, and is hollow all through the center, from stem to crown. With an extremely spongy and rippled appearance it has been likened to both honey-combs and coral. Coloring can range from a tannish gray to very dark brown. They are favored for their uniquely rich and intense earthy flavor (with hazelnut undertones), and a very woodsy almost smoky aroma. Their sponge-like texture is still firm and they have a good meaty quality to their flesh.
Morel’s are not to be eaten raw, yet they only require a very light cooking to make the most of their unique and layered flavoring, a simple sauté with butter can showcase them well (more mature Morel’s will need a slightly longer cooking time as they get tougher/chewier as they mature). High in both Protein and Fiber, Morels also have significant amounts of Vitamins B, D, E, and K, along with Manganese and Iron.
Tips: Morel’s are almost always gathered from the wild and its important to note that unlike their other fungi friends, Morel’s peak in the Spring as opposed to the Fall (which is when you’ll find a lot of your other favorite wild varieties).
More of our favorite Mushrooms varietals, and while still occasionally found in the wild, these ones are primarily cultivated:
King Trumpet Mushrooms:
It’s no surprise, given its various names (French Horn Mushroom, King Oyster Mushroom, and Trumpet Royal), that the King Trumpet is the largest varietal in the Oyster family of Mushrooms. They are easily recognizable by their large thick cylindrical stem (the stem is much larger in comparison to the cap size than that of other varietals). The white stem flares into cream colored gills along the underside of a grayish tan to light brown colored cap. They are a robust and firm mushroom with a dense spongey texture and a very mild nutty (almost bland) flavor when raw. Once cooked they develop a savory meat-like umami flavor and their dense flesh develops a softer, more melting texture.
Its meaty quality makes the King Trumpet conducive to a wide variety of cooked applications, including being grilled, braised, sautéed, stir fried, or added to soups and stews – they are particularly great seared ala scallops. Both the stems and the caps are edible and equal in texture and flavor.
Also known as the Dancing Mushroom or Hen of the Woods, Maitake Mushroom’s are easily recognizable by their unique appearance, resembling a plant more than other mushroom varietals with their multi layered, leaf-shaped fruiting body. Their coloring runs from white to dark cream to brown and depends on the amount of sunlight they’ve been exposed to, and their texture is a nice medium firm and wonderfully succulent. They are favored for their rich and savory flavor which combines layers of earthiness with both spicy and fruity notes (they also absorb the other flavors they are cooked with).
Maiktake’s are also extremely versatile in the kitchen as they can be used in both raw and cooked applications and their texture holds up well to variety of cooking methods including being baked, grilled, roasted, sautéed, and deep or stir fried.
Maitake Mushrooms boost the immune system (and have been ingested in China your hundreds of years as an immune system stimulant) and limits or reverses tumor growth (recent studies in both the US and Japan have proven it to contain an antibiotic with anti-HIV properties).
Next to the Button Mushroom, the Shiitake is the second most widely cultivated and consumed Mushroom the world over. It has a typical “umbrella” mushroom shape to it, with a uniformly round stem topped by a wide flat cap with a characteristically curled edge. They can range in color from a rich golden tan to a dark brown, but most commonly feature a brown topped cap, with a tan to cream underside, stem, and flesh. The caps are known for their smooth meaty flesh which has a rich and earthy umami flavor with smoky undertones.
Shiitake’s are one of the larger culinary varietals (their caps can get up to 8-10 inches across), and the meaty caps both sauté and fry well (you’ll want to cook them prior to eating). The stems are too tough to be edible but are frequently used in stocks. Although cultivated, Shiitake’s maintain a woodsy almost pine aroma (which is enhanced once cooked) and along with their rich earthy flavor, makes them a good go-to for recipe’s calling for “Wild Mushrooms”.
Shiitake Mushrooms have been cultivated for over 2,000 years and have long been used for medicinal purposes. They are vitamin and mineral rich, with especially high levels of Vitamins B2, B12, and D, and antioxidant properties which have been used to fight certain forms of cancer.
Cooking with Mushrooms:
There are many creative and delicious ways to cultivate the use of Wild Mushrooms in your Kitchen – here’s a few of our favorites from the Web to get you started: (Clockwise from Upper Left):
Mushrooms with Bearnaise Yogurt:
Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Chanterelles:
Ricotta, Kale and Mushroom Toast:
Fresh and Wild Mushroom Stew:
Some of our favorite creative entree recipes from the Web featuring Mushrooms as the star: (Clockwise from upper left):
Mushroom and Burrata Lasagnette:
Mushroom Paella with Kale and Eggs:
Wild Mushroom, Watercress, and Blue Cheese Tarte:
Butternut Squash and Mushroom Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce: