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Mushrooms are fleshy growths of fungus that are used in foods throughout the world. There are many thousands of types of mushrooms. Only a small percentage of them are poisonous, and dozens of different types of mushrooms are not only edible but are considered desirable for eating. Among the most popular of the different types of mushrooms that are used in foods are white mushrooms, morels, truffles and portabella mushrooms. Other popular types include the chanterelle, shiitake, oyster and enoki.
The most common type of mushroom in many grocery stores is the Agaricus bisporus. It is white or light brown and has many common names, such as a white mushroom, table mushroom, Italian mushroom or white button. This mushroom has a stalk, a dome-shaped top and a generally mild taste. White mushrooms are available fresh, dried or canned.
These cone-shaped mushrooms vary in color from tan to brown. Unlike white mushrooms, which have a more smooth surface, morels have a porous, sponge-like appearance above the stalk. They also have a stronger flavor, which has been described as earthy, smoky or even nutty. These mushrooms typically are more expensive than white mushrooms. When harvested from the wild, they should be cleaned thoroughly because of their porous surface.
Truffles are quite rare and expensive, so they are considered a delicacy by many people. Technically, they are not actual mushrooms, but they are closely related. Truffles have a bumpy, uneven appearance. They have a strong, earthy or even meaty taste, and the darker the truffle, the stronger the taste.
Portabella mushrooms are similar to white mushrooms but are much larger and more brown in color. They are harvested when they are very mature, which gives them a more dense texture and a deeper flavor. When they are harvested before they reach full maturity, they are called crimini mushrooms, which are commonly substituted for white mushrooms when a slightly stronger is desired.
These mushrooms have a much different look, rising from a white or yellowish stalk and opening into a vase-like or flower-like shape in bright yellow or orange hues. They have a delicate texture, so care must be taken when they are cooked, to avoid having them become tough. Their taste has been described as nutty. Chanterelles are especially popular for use in salads and appetizers.
Shiitake mushrooms are mostly brown and have wide, umbrella-shaped tops. They have a dense texture and meaty taste, so they often are used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. Shiitake mushrooms are one of several different types of mushrooms that are popular in stir fries or as a cooked side dish.
These mushrooms get their name from their appearance and their flavor. They typically are white, beige or gray and are found in the wild growing on logs or trees. Their stems have broad gills and rise into a flat, mostly uneven top that resembles an oyster. These mushrooms have a soft texture and delicate flavor that some people compare with seafood. They are especially popular when fried.
Enoki mushrooms grow in bunches. They have long, slender stems and small, white caps. These crisp mushrooms have a mild flavor that has been described as somewhat fruity. They are usually eaten raw on salads or sandwiches.