The button mushroom, better known as a white mushroom or sometimes Agaricus bisporus is the most widely cultivated, harvested, and distributed mushroom in the world. The mildly flavored, hardy fungus can be found fresh, dried, and canned in grocery stores all over the world.
The button mushroom has a classic mushroom like appearance, with a short thick stalk and a white cap. The mushroom is gilled beneath the smooth cap, and a small ring of flesh surrounds the stem where it meets the cap. When young, this ring of flesh forms a veil over the gills of the mushroom. This mushroom can be found growing almost anywhere, including lawns, compost piles, leaf mold, wood chips, dead trees, and well fertilized soil. They are easy to identify and to pick, making them a popular choice for mushroom hunters.
The brown variety of the button mushroom is often found marketed as a crimini mushroom. Crimini mushrooms have a darker and more earthy flavor which some consumers like because it adds complexity to food. Allowed to grow to a large size, this mushroom is also packed and sold under the portobello mushroom label. Portobello mushrooms are usually quite large, and also have a rich flavor which pairs with a meaty texture. All varieties of button mushroom pack and ship well, and tend to be very stable if kept in dry, cool conditions.
When selecting button mushrooms for eating, look for specimens which still have tightly closed veils covering the gills. Also try to pick out firm dry specimens without a slimy texture or cracks. Store the mushrooms in a paper bag in a cool part of the fridge, and try to use them within one week. When you are ready to use mushrooms, brush them lightly to remove dirt and leaf mold or wash them if the mushrooms are being used immediately.
The button mushroom is a delicious edible mushroom, and can be used in a wide array of dishes. Fresh, button mushrooms are excellent on pizzas, salads, stir fries, and stews. Dried, they can be used to lend a deep, earthy flavor to stews and stuffings. The myriad uses for this flexible fungus are limited only by the imagination of the cook.