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Three varieties of mushroom

Types of mushrooms you can eat

09 Mar 2023 • 16 min read

Mushrooms have been seen as an almost mystical food for thousands of years. While we may no longer believe they’ll make us immortal (as the Ancient Egyptians once believed), modern science is lending some credence to ancient wisdom.

Mushrooms are now known to be rich in vitamins and minerals – including selenium and vitamin D – and studies have suggested a range of health benefits.1,2

But, as you may know, some mushroom types aren’t edible! So here, we’ll walk you through the different types of mushrooms to eat and how to identify them.

What are the different types of mushrooms?

What are the different types of mushrooms?

There are many different types of mushrooms out there, many of which make a great addition to your favourite recipes. But some are actually not edible and can even be poisonous - although it’s unlikely you’ll find those mushrooms in your local supermarket! 

Each edible mushroom species varies in flavour and texture, making them great for a wide variety of dishes. Here are 10 different types of mushrooms that are safe to eat and the perfect addition to various recipes.

1. Button mushrooms 
Perfect for so many hearty recipes, like stews and casseroles, these common British mushrooms are small, round mushrooms that come in either white or brown. 
 
2. Reishi mushrooms
With an earthy and sometimes bitter taste, reishi mushrooms are usually not used in cooking. Instead, reishi mushrooms are used in supplements as they’re thought to benefit your health and well-being.3 

3. Flat mushrooms
Flat mushrooms are ideal for roasting whole, as they’re large and white – the perfect choice for a veggie alternative to a burger! 

4. Portobello mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms have a hearty, meaty texture, making them great for baking, like our mushroom pancakes or stuffing with cheese. 
 
5. Chestnut mushrooms
With a tasty, nutty flavour, chestnut mushrooms are an excellent choice for risottos, pizzas and even a great vegan Wellington.

6. Shiitake mushrooms
These delicious Japanese shiitake mushrooms have a gentle oaky flavour, making them ideal for oriental dishes like noodles and ramen. 

7. Oyster mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms have a distinctive shape that echoes an oyster shell. They have a gentle, sweet flavour that makes them great for adding to pasta dishes or stir-fries.

8. Porcini mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms can be hard to find as they are wild and seasonal, but once you’ve got your hands on them, they make a great addition to any recipe and can even be made into a delicious mushroom gravy.

9. Lion’s mane mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms have a slightly sweet flavour and gentle texture that mimics the texture of shellfish like crab and scallops. For this reason, they make a great partner for shellfish recipes, but it’s thought that these shaggy mushrooms have some great benefits for your health too.

10. Maitake mushrooms
Maitake mushrooms have a slightly spicy taste and are well known for their use in Japanese cooking and potential health benefits.

Mushroom identification tips

Mushroom identification tips

It’s estimated that there are over 15,000 different types of mushrooms in the UK alone, but how can we spot the edible fungi from the non-edible?4

Each and every mushroom has a different shape, size, and texture, so when it comes to mushroom identification, especially types of wild mushrooms, it is challenging. There are very few factors that’ll identify poisonous or non-poisonous mushrooms immediately.

Instead, you need to identify the specific mushroom itself, and even then, you should check across multiple sources to be extra sure.4

Never eat or touch any mushroom you come across in the wild without checking with valid sources that it is safe.4 You also want to make sure you have permission to actually forage in that area and if you can forage there, make sure you do it safely and sustainably.5

Rest assured, your favourite punnet of mushrooms from the supermarket is safe to eat, but you should follow some general rules to avoid picking poisonous mushrooms when you’re out and about. These include: 
  • Avoiding any mushrooms that have white gills, a skirt or ring on the stem, and a bulbous base. 
  • Avoiding mushrooms that are red on the top of the stem. 
  • Avoiding eating or touching any mushrooms until you are entirely confident that it is safe to do so. If in doubt, leave it alone!
 Check out our list of poisonous mushrooms to avoid to help you spot some of the toxic mushrooms out there.

What are the benefits of mushrooms?

There are many great benefits of mushrooms, from helping your heart to boosting your B vitamins and more.7 Here are 3 of the top benefits of eating mushrooms: 

They’re a great source of B vitamins 
If you’re eating free-from, mushrooms are a great addition to your diet. For vegans, they give a hearty taste and are a non-animal source of B vitamins. They’re also useful if you’re avoiding gluten, and with it, many grains that are rich in vitamin B.

They’re good for your heart 
Try a meal with mushrooms for a healthier heart. Our fungal friends contain beta-glucans, which help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. Since we don’t naturally produce beta-glucans, the only way to get the compound is in our diet.8,9,10 
 
They help keep you feeling full
Mushrooms could also be helpful if you’re battling the bulge. They’re low in calories, carbs, fat and sodium but are a source of fibre and nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium and selenium. So, try swapping your usual burger for a Portobello mushroom burger instead.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shiitake mushrooms can stop you from snacking thanks to the satisfying umami flavour.11 But maitake mushrooms are a good option for those who prefer a less intense flavour. In one Japanese study, the fluffy, fan-shaped mushroom helped 30 overweight patients lose a significant amount over two months.12

Do mushrooms have a benefit? 

While we tend to choose button mushrooms or portobello for our risottos and fry-ups, many more exotic fungi are used in herbal remedies.

Maitake mushrooms, popular in Chinese cuisine as well as in herbal remedies, have been found to have a response to our immune system. At the same time, modern science continually links reishi mushrooms to immunity.7,12

Different ways to eat mushrooms

Mushrooms are easy to prepare and incredibly versatile. So, upgrade your dumplings, spaghetti, stir-fries, fry-ups, wraps, salad, sushi, and soups – in nutrients and flavour – by throwing in some shiitake, enoki or even button mushrooms.

Portobello mushrooms oven-baked with cheese (or nutritional yeast for vegans) provide a hearty, warming meal for vegetarians looking for a speedy dinner.

For those with a taste for Asian cuisine, shiitake mushrooms are a good choice. Keep a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms in the cupboard and simply soak in warm water for 20 minutes before chopping off the woody stalk and throwing in a wok with coconut oil, ginger, snow peas, rice noodles and tamari (gluten-free soy sauce).

Sources

1.      https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf001525d

2.      https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/10/1498

3.      https://selfhacked.com/app/uploads/2017/12/8.pdf

4.      https://www.wildfooduk.com/mushroom-guide/

5.      https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/things-to-do/foraging/foraging-guidelines/

6.      https://www.wildfooduk.com/articles/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-poisonous-and-edible-mushrooms/

7.      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2010.01859.x

8.      https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kaniyaiah-Manikandan/publication/236646616_Nutritional_and_Medicinal_values_of_Mushrooms/links/00b49518a3ed67d243000000/Nutritional-and-Medicinal-values-of-Mushrooms

9.      https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-2286-6_9

10.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157515000733

11.  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/258051/

12.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620745/

 
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