Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sauteed Marinated Mushrooms

Easy and Tasty. This sauteed marinated mushroom recipe is simple. Follow along with Chef Gordon Ramsey as he makes this delicious mushroom dish. Enjoy this dish hot or cold, with a nice crusty roll.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gardens Love SMS

Gardens Love SMS

What helps your lawn, shrubs, garden and trees, offers environmentally friendly ways to recycle, and comes from the nearest mushroom farm? Spent mushroom substrate or SMS for short. It seems that every home owner on my block is striving to out-do the other with their green lawn, lush shrubs, and big, colourful flowers. And who is the only one on the block with the greenest lawn, bushiest shrubs and brightest flowers? Well me of course.

My secret is finally out, I use spent mushroom substrate.

I hear you asking, what exactly is SMS? Spent mushroom substrate is derived from 100% organic materials such as straw, peat moss, horse manure, corn cobs, soybean meal and gypsum. Once pasteurized this material becomes a substrate on which mushrooms will be grown. Because the growing needs of mushrooms and green plants is very different, very little of the substrates nutrients are used during the mushroom growing process. After the mushrooms are harvested the farmer is left with a nutrient filled substrate that is an ideal soil conditioner for outdoor gardening. Isn’t that amazing?

Now there are many other benefits to using SMS and not just to me, but the environment as well. Using mushroom compost in the garden helps to recycle a product which would otherwise be disposed of as waste. As the substrate itself is a recycled by-products from other industries, when spent mushroom substrate is used on a garden or lawn you are actually doubling the recycling. You also know those really hot summers when water bans start to take effect? Think of SMS, it stores of to 70% of its own weight in water. You can use less water, once again being kind to the environment, and still have a visually stimulating garden and lawn.

The most important part: how to properly use it. SMS can be used as a mulch, soil conditioner, and potting mix additive. Just mix it in with the existing soil or spread a thin layer out on the lawn, and you’re done. It is great for flowering gardens, trees and shrubs and vegetable and herb gardens.

Now all you gardeners out there you would probably like to know the analysis:
- pH 6.9
- Dry matter: 50.5%
- Organic Carbon 28.0%
- Nitrogen 1.8%
- Phosphorus 0.8%
- Potassium 1.6%
- Other organic material 17.3%
- Carbon: Nitrogen ratio 31.0

So now you know the secret to a great lawn and garden. Try SMS, your lawn and garden will please everyone at your next outdoor BBQ or picnic. There is nothing wrong with letting your friends think you have one amazing green thumb.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wild and Poisonous Mushrooms Identification Myths

Wild and Poisonous Mushrooms Identification Myths

My favourite mushroom quote would have to be “you can eat all mushrooms, some only once.” It is amazing how true this is.

With 10,000 known mushroom species in the world, and only a handful of them being edible, I wonder why people still take the chance and pick their own mushrooms.

Well let’s clear up some of the mushroom identification myths that I have heard over the years, as many of these “fool-proof” ways of testing are just not true:

Myth: Cook a mushroom and put a silver spoon into it. If the spoon is tarnished black, then the mushroom is poisonous.
Truth: Some poisonous species will not turn the spoon black.

Myth: Feed mushrooms to small animals like chickens or squirrels; if they eat it, it is not poisonous.
Truth: The toxins may be harmless to other organisms. Evidence that something else is eating the mushroom does not mean it is safe for humans to eat.

Myth: If you can peel, you can eat it.
Truth: Even poisonous mushrooms can be peeled.

All white mushrooms are safe to eat.
Truth: The most common deadly mushrooms are white (Amanita Group).

Myth: Poisonous mushrooms smell and taste awful.
Truth: Even the poisonous mushrooms have a pleasant taste. You might not know they were poisonous until the symptoms start to appear.

Myth: Poisonous mushrooms can be detoxified by boiling, drying, or pickling.
Truth: Neither cooking, canning, pickling, boiling, freezing, or drying a mushroom will change the chemical structure of the toxins.

Now let’s talk about some of the more true facts about mushrooms:

Fact: There are many mushrooms in the wild that are deadly. Even one bite can make you seriously ill.

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning are sometimes delayed by hours or even days after eating, when the toxins have begun to attack the liver and other organs.

Fact: Certain species can cause hallucinations, dizziness, drowsiness, dilated pupils, or muscle spasms. Other species cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, and sharp abdominal pain.

Fact: If you think that you have ingested poisonous mushrooms you should contact your local poison control center as soon as possible (Canadian Poison Control Centers).

Fact: Canadian Mushroom Farmers put out a great product that is available in all your local grocery stores.

This is why I never take any chances and buy my mushrooms from the local grocery store, they always have every mushroom that I need, and are always safe and delicious.

The Mushroom Lady takes no responsibility for the picking and consumption of wild mushrooms based upon the information stated above.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mushrooms Have Umami

Mushrooms Have Umami

So what is Umami?

Umami is that extraordinary sensation that you feel after taking a bite of a thick juicy steak topped with mushrooms. It quickly wakes up your taste buds, and floods your mouth with flavour. Umami is none other than the fifth taste.

A fifth taste you ask? You may think that Umami is just as ordinary as the other tastes; sweet, salty, sour and bitter, but you would be wrong. Umami is a Japanese word meaning "savory" or "meaty" and thus applies to the sensation of savoriness.

This taste is triggered by foods that are heavy in a certain glutamate, such as mushrooms. This is similar to the sensation that is triggered when eating foods treated with monosodium glutamate. They taste fuller and better. Because mushrooms have this natural occurring glutamate, they enhance the flavour and extend the finish of the foods that they are served with.

Think of your last meal featuring mushrooms. Did it not taste just fantastic? That is Umami. So remember this unique and powerful taste next time you cook with mushrooms.

Courtesy of Mushrooms Canada is a Umami rich mushroom recipe that I think everyone should give a try, your taste buds will thank you for it.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

This is the ultimate Umami sauce; serve with beef tenderloin, steaks or veal, pork or turkey scaloppini.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 10 minutes

2 tbsp butter 25 mL
2 tbsp minced shallots 25 mL
4 oz fresh mushrooms (white, crimini, shiitake 125 g
oyster, or portabella) stemmed and sliced
½ cup chicken broth 125 mL
½ cup Marsala wine 125 mL
2/3 cup whipping cream (35%) 175 mL
freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat butter over medium heat; sauté shallots for 1 minute; add mushrooms and cook 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside. Add broth and wine; bring to boil and cook until reduced by about half. Add cream and cook until sauce has thickened slightly about 2-3 minutes or until desired consistency. Return mushrooms and heat until hot. Serve over cooked meat.

Makes 4 servings

Tip: Substitute white part of green onions for shallots
Variation: Substitute brandy or sherry for Marsala wine.

Check out the Umami - Nature`s Flavour Enhancer Article on the Mushrooms Canada website.

Special Thanks to Mushrooms Canada for the use of this recipe

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The History of Mushrooms

The History of Mushrooms

One thing that I often wonder is how long have mushrooms been consumed by the human race? Food historians can tell us that prehistoric people most likely consumed mushrooms, both poisonous and edible. Let’s take a little trip back in time to discover the history and origins of the wonderful and delectable mushroom.

"Mushrooms and other large varieties of fungus have been eaten since earliest times, as traces of puffballs in the prehistoric lake dwellings of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria show; but not by everyone and not everywhere. The rarest and finest mushrooms, such as the truffle and the oronge, were highly esteemed in classical Greece and Rome, and have always been expensive...some mushrooms have been successfully cultivated for a long time. In classical times both Greeks and Romans grew the small Agrocybe aegerita...on slices of a poplar trunk. The Chinese and Japanese may have been growing shiitake on rotting logs for even longer. Modern European cultivation goes back to 1600, when the French agriculturist Olivier de Serres suggested a method in his work Le Theatre d'agriculture des champs. In 1678 another Frenchman, the botanist Merchant, demonstrated to the Academie des Sciences how mushrooms could be grown in a controlled way by transplanting their mycelia (filaments which spread through the soil underneath them like fine roots)."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press: Oxford] 1999 (p. 519, 521)[NOTE: This book contains separate entries for specific types of mushrooms...shiitake, enokitake, truffles, etc. If you need these details ask your librarian to help you find a copy of the book.]

"Cave drawings and paintings tell us hardly anything about the plants the cave dwellers ate, and it is even rarer to find them showing mushrooms, which does not mean that the latter never featured on prehistoric menus. Residues identified prove that other vegetables were in fact eaten, even if few felt any urge to depict them on cave walls. Morever, if we look at the dietary customs of contemporary peoples who are still at the Paleolithic or Neolithic stage of development, there is plenty of evidence of an interest in mushrooms both edible and poisonous. The latter can be used for hunting, fishing, or indeed for homicial purposes...The ancient Egyptians and Romans greatly enjoyed mushrooms...The Bible, although full of references to food of many kinds, never mentions mushrooms, either in praise or otherwise..."
---History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, tranlated by Anthea Bell [Barnes & Noble Books: New York] 1992 (p. 57) [NOTE: This book contains much more information on mushrooms than can be paraphrased here.]

"The first evidence that mushrooms were used as human food in prehistoric Europe is the recent find of a bowl of field mushrooms in a Bronze Age house near Nola in Italy. Mushrooms were gathered from the wild. Classical Greek authors tend to treat them as famine food, on the level with acorns. By Romans, however, they were so highly regarded that the Stroic writer Seneca gave up mushrooms (boleti) as unnecessary luxuries---an approach to the vegetarianism and asceticism that he toyed with. Recipes are suggested by Diphilus of Siphnos, in the third century BC, and in Apicius in the fourth century AD."
---Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 2003 (p. 223)

“Mushrooms were also very popular in the civilizations of China, Egypt and Greece. Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors actually went so far as to forbid commoners from eating mushrooms; strictly reserving them for nobility only.”

About Portobello and Cremini
The food experts generally agree on three points when it comes to the history of portabellas:
1. This meaty mushroom is an American invention with Italian roots (spores, actually) made popular by clever marketing in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Both cremini and portobello mushrooms are first mentioned in the New York Times during the mid 1980s.
2. There are several theories regarding the name. Although these mushrooms are also currently enjoyed in fine dining establishments of Central/South America, there is no apparent connection between the town of Portobelo (Panama) the origination of the name or item.
3. There is no definitive spelling of this fungus. According to Google (not a scientific, but a popular survey), Portobello is preferred (169,000), followed by portabella (33,100) and portobella (3, 510).

"By the late 1800s...Italian growers also cultivated the common mushroom but preferring the brown-capped variety, which are often called cremini mushrooms (or Italian brown) and have an earthy flavor that is fine for soups and stews and for stuffing. The large and beefy Portabello (also Roma) is actually a fully grown cremini, with dense and meaty flesh that lends itself nicely to grilling or roasting. Originally, crimini mushrooms were imported from Italy, but now they are cultivated in the United States."
---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press: Cambridge] 2000 Volume Two (p. 1818)

"The name "portobello" began to be used in the 1980s as a brilliant marketing ploy to popularize an unglamorous mushroom that, more often than not, had to be disposed of because growers couldn't sell them."
---The New Food Lover's Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst, 3rd edition [Barrons:New York] 2001 (p. 485)

"Portobellos are popping up on the nation's menus like mushrooms after a spring rain. From soups and salads to sandwiches and entrees, the portobellos are everywhere. "It's a phenomenon in the food business," says Wade Whitfield of the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group in Roseville, Calif. "This thing has gone from nearly zero in 1993 to a predicted 30 million pounds this year. It's a major item. It will be the largest specialty mushroom." And chefs have found portobellos their own specialty. Whitfield of the Mushroom Council said no one can put their finger on the precise development of the portobello. "I've talked to several growers, and one said that he almost got fired once for growing those things," Whitfield notes. "They are really culls. You didn't want them in the mushroom bed. He would throw them away. There was no market. Growers would take them home."Farges adds that most of the mushroom farmers, many in southeastern Pennsylvania, were of Italian origin. They originally produced brown mushrooms, but the public clamored for the white button variety because it was clean and pristine. In the 1960s and 1970s, with the back-to-earth movement, the growers again started producing the browns. "They are sometimes called Romans, cremini or browns," Farges explains. "It has a much meatier flavor. It became a gourmet item. By accident, they found that if you let it grow, it would grow into a portobello." White mushrooms are still 90 percent of the supply, but portobellos have taken a bite of the market in the past four years. "More growers are converting operations from white to portobellos in their mushroom houses," says Whitfield, adding that the move leads to a reduction in price. With the increased popularity, however, comes a disagreement over the spelling of portobellos. Whitfield explains: "A great deal of the growers are of Italian descent. I don't know who named it, but I understand portabella means 'beautiful door.' With an instead of an 'a' in porto, it means 'beautiful port.'" The Mushroom Council prefers portabella, says Whitfield, but that's open to dispute. "To be honest, I've been here two and a half years, and portobellos were just coming on the scene," he says. "We had five varieties, and portobellos became the sixth. I got to the sticky little point of 'How do you spell it?' O's or A's? At the time I could identify six shippers who were selling portobellos. I called all six of them, and asked, 'How do you spell portobello?' Four out of six spelled it portabella."
---FOR MANY CHEFS, IT'S SUNRISE FOR PORTOBELLOS , By: Ruggless, Ron, Nation'sRestaurant News, 00280518, 5/13/96, Vol. 30, Issue 19

"The chubby cremino (if that is the singular; no one can be sure), properly encouraged by environmental conditions, will metamorphose to a portly portobello (also portabella), a name as difficult to document as cremini. I asked dozens who work with mushrooms, here and in Italy, about the name. The marketing director of a mushroom farm told me, "It was named after Portobello Road in London, where they sell fashionable things, you know." An importer said, "Until ten years ago, the mushroom was cappelaccio in Italy. Then it was renamed after a TV show called Portobello because it sounds better." Another importer told me that "portobello is known only in northern Italy, where it is called capellone." To one authority, capellone means "big hat." To the director of an Italian trade board and a dictionary it means "hippie." Two northern Italian chefs had never heard of capellone or cappelaccio. The most outlandish derivation came from an Italian distributor: "Well, you know that champignon comes from the word for Champagne, and that a Champagne cork looks like a round port and that's how we get porto bello - beautiful port."

Now we know. It is amazing to think that pharaohs regarded mushrooms as nobility only food, and that Japanese culture knew mushrooms could be used as medicine way before today’s research even identified mushrooms as a cancer preventative. Just Amazing.

Well I must thank for this wonderful and education trip back in time. Check out their website for more insight to when your favourite food got its start.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mushroom Varieties

Mushroom Varieties

Big ones, small ones, white ones, brown ones, look at all the different varieties of mushrooms. With over 38,000 varieties of mushrooms around the world, mushrooms are becoming ever more popular in not only a restaurant setting but in the home setting as well. They have become more interesting and easier to cook with because of growing recipe databases, and websites devoted to mushrooms (like this one).

But how to know which mushroom is which? This is one question that people still may not know how to answer. Well today I am going to explain it to you. Let’s talk about the 6 main varieties of mushrooms that are not only sold, but grown here in Canada.

White Mushrooms
Now we have all either seen or used these ones. They are the most popular mushroom in Canada.
Name: Agaricus Bisporus
Description: White mushrooms come in petite, large, stuffer and griller.
Taste: The mildest tasting mushroom out of the bunch. The taste does become stronger with cooking.
Uses: Can be used with almost anything; it is so versatile. Serve in soups, salads, appetizers, and entrées.

Crimini Mushrooms
Very similar to the white mushrooms, only brown.
Name: Agaricus Bisporus
Description: Range in colour from brown to tan.
Taste: Slightly stronger taste than the white. You can definitely taste the UMAMI when they are cooked.
Uses: Can be used in any way a white mushroom can, they are interchangeable. Raw, cooked, microwaved, or stir fried; crimini mushrooms go great with meat or vegetarian dishes.

Portabella Mushrooms
The really big brown ones. My personal favourite. These are actually fully grown crimini mushrooms.
Name: Agaricus Bisporus
Description: Range in colour from brown to tan. Caps can range from 2 inches to 5 inches wide.
Taste: Very meaty texture with a strong mushroom taste. They are often called the vegetarians steak, because they have the similar taste and texture as meat.
Uses: These big guys can be a meal in themselves. Grill them, bake them, eat them as a portabella pizza. They are a healthier alternative to meat; lower fat, carbs, sodium, and carbs. Just Wonderful.

Shiitake Mushrooms
In Asian cultures these mushrooms are used for medical pruposes as they posses many healing powers.
Name: Lentinus Edodes
Description: Shiitakes have a light tan to dark brown cap. The gills are light tan.
Taste: They are very soft and kind of spongy. Have a very meaty taste.
Uses: Often used in stir-fries and pasta dishes. Have a great UMAMI taste and enhance the other flavours of dishes it is served with. Try a shiitake sauce on your steak or veal, mouth watering.

Oyster Mushrooms
They get their name because they have a slight oyster fishy smell, especially the pink oysters.
Name: Pleurotus Ostreatus
Description: Come in several different colours including white, brown, black, yellow, grey and pink. Have very soft gills running up the short off-centre stem.
Taste: They have a very mild taste and a delicate texture.
Uses: They can be eaten raw or cooked. Its texture is a great complement to pork, chicken, and seafood.

Enoki Mushrooms
Name: Flammulina Veluptipes
Description: Long tiny stems with little white caps. Looks like a bean sprout wearing a mushroom cap.
Taste: Very mild taste, with a good crunch.
Uses: They are best when they are eaten raw on salads or soups. Also good in stir-fries as long as they are put in at the last minutes; so they stay crunchy.

Next time you are in the grocery store and walk by the mushroom counter you will know what you are looking at, what it tastes like and what to cook it with. So grab some, be adventurous, try some mushrooms. They are nutritious, delicious and surprisingly easy to cook with.

More great information can be found at

Friday, January 5, 2007

Baked Mushroom and Leek Risotto

"This is an easy version of the classic Italian dish. Mild flavoured leeks combine with wonderful woodsy shiitake mushrooms to create a delicious treat. Serve with a green salad or as an accompaniment to veal or chicken.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1 leek 1
2 tbsp olive oil 30 mL
2 garlic cloves, minced 2
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth 500 mL
1 cup arborio rice 250 mL
1/3 cup dry white wine or broth 75 mL
¼ tsp salt 1 mL
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper 0.5 mL
8 oz fresh Shiitake mushrooms 250 g
¼ cup table cream (18%) 50 mL
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley 25 mL
1 oz Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/3 cup/75 mL) 30 g

Cut dark green tops and root off leek; halve lengthways, wash and thinly slice. Heat 1 tbsp(15 mL) oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Meanwhile, bring the broth to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat or in microwave. Stir rice into the leek mixture; cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in wine, salt and pepper; cook about 1-2 minutes. Transfer mixture to covered 2 qt (2 L) oven –proof casserole or baking dish. Stir hot broth into rice mixture; cover and bake in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove stems from mushrooms. Wipe caps with a damp cloth and slice. Heat remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in same skillet or saucepan over medium- high heat. Add mushrooms, cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until just lightly browned . Set aside and cover to keep warm.Remove risotto from the oven; stir in cream, mushrooms and parsley. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into serving bowls and serve immediately garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Makes 2 main course or 4 side servings

Variation: A mixture of shiitake, oyster and crimini mushrooms may be used if desired.
Tip: Arborio rice is short-grain rice imported form Italy used specially for risotto."

More great mushroom recipes are available online at

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Mushrooms: To Clean or Not To Clean?

Mushrooms: To Clean or Not to Clean

Many people often ask me “Should I clean my mushrooms?” The answer is yes and no.

You might find that the mushrooms that you buy at your local grocery store, whether in bulk or packaged, might have little particles on them. Contrary to popular belief, mushrooms are not grown in manure, so there is no need to worry; these particles are not manure or even dirt for that mater.

As you might have read in my previous posting, mushrooms have a top casing layer spread over the bed when they are grown, and this layer is sterilized peat moss. When the mushrooms are harvested they may still have some particles of peat moss stuck to them, which is what you are seeing on the mushroom or in the bottom of the tray when you bring them home.

To answer the question, yes you should clean your mushrooms, no not in water. The proper way to clean a mushroom is to simple brush it off with a paper towel, soft pastry brush, or if you have one, a mushroom brush. This should remove all the particles of peat moss.

You should never wash mushrooms in water like you do other vegetables. Mushrooms are very porous and act almost like sponge, soaking up water. This causes them to discolour and possibly spoil quicker.

So there is no need to worry. Mushrooms are good if you give ‘em a quick brush, then cook them or serve them cold.