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The mushrooms

What are mushrooms?

There are more than 700 species of mushrooms, but only 200 of them are considered as edible, about twenty as poisonous and the remaining ones as innocuous. Mushrooms are vegetables reproducing by spores which are not-visible to human eye, nestled under the cap and capable of germinating into a mass of white branching threads called micelia. According to the species, mushrooms may have different shape and size. The majority of mushrooms consists of a body fruit and a cap; some exhibits a deep a spongy mass instead of a cap. They are usually classified in families, genres and species. The flavour of mushrooms depends on the type of wood on which they grow on and this explains their diversity according to their place of origin. In Mediterranean countries mushrooms grow up both in valleys and in mountains. The gathering season usually starts in April and lasts until November, when temperature gets more rigid. Nevertheless, the best gathering season is the rainy period at the end of summer when cool temperature helps the growth of the most precious varieties, such as porcini mushrooms.

The worst enemy is wind. Only few varieties of mushrooms can be cultivated; wild mushrooms, such as porcini, are surely the most valuable ones. Mushrooms life cycle can last five days. In favourable climate conditions only two or three days are necessary to pass from 1 to 10 cm. In mountain, where there is a larger thermal excursion, about twenty days are necessary to reach the highest point of mushroom life cycle. Mushrooms contain about 90% of water, fiber, and are a good source of vitamins B1, B2, D, minerals, and proteins (as many as in milk and eggs). They are very low in calories but do not eat too many mushrooms as they might cause digestive disease.

Buy them, store and cook them

Only specialised pickers can gather mushrooms as some of them are extremely hazardous when consumed. During the gathering season it is easy to find mushrooms in specializes shops, whereas cultivated mushrooms are available in supermarkets all year long.
It is important that mycologists analyse mushrooms. When choosing, look for mushrooms that have a good and concentrated smell and are firm and heavy. It is important to cook them fresh within two days of harvest. Some mushrooms, like porcini, should be consumed immediately. They should not be stored in fridge as flavour and consistency of their pulp could not last long. However, to store fresh mushrooms, keep them in a cool dry place, preferably on a wooden board.

When cleaning before cooking, avoid washing mushrooms because they absorb water like a sponge. Instead, wipe them clean with a damp cloth and scrape them gently with a paring knife to remove bits of dirt, then rinse and dry them in a towel.

Mushrooms can be consumed in different ways: fried, grilled, sliced thinly and cooked with olive oil, parsley and garlic, stewed with tomato sauce, raw or sliced thinly in salads. As most mushrooms is found during late summer and autumn, there are different methods to preserve harvested mushrooms all year long. As water promotes decay, drying up method is preferable even if it makes them loosing a bit of their flavour. Dried mushrooms can be perfectly stored in the refrigerator. It is possible to reconstitute dried mushrooms by placing them in warm water before use. Other common methods for preserving mushrooms is pickling in oil or in vinegar.

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The aim of the PIEMONTE GOURMET CLUB is to promote the traditions of Piedmontese taste in the world.