...but probably aren't.
Twenty-sixteen is shaping up to be the year of the mushroom, which is a little disingenuous since they date back literally hundreds of millions of years. The reasons for their ascent are a combination of a lot of things, mainly their nutrition profile, earthy taste and ability to sub in for meat. And while we’ll always love Portobello and shiitake, previously obscure varieties are now cropping up at farmers' markets, specialty stores and on menus. Be adventurous, since whichever you consume contains a multitude of vitamins and a helping of fiber. As a non-animal, naturally occurring source of Vitamin D, mushrooms are a boon for plant-based eaters. (Vitamin D enables the absorption of calcium.) Mushrooms are also rich with selenium, an antioxidant mineral that promotes liver enzyme function, prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates. Pro tip: If mushrooms are dirty, plunge them briefly into a bowl of cold water. Lift them from the water and arrange on paper towels to dry.
This Italian mushroom maintains its toothsome texture during long cooking, making them ideal for a vegetarian ragù. Dried porcini can be buzzed in a spice grinder to a fine powder and used to thicken and enrich sauces. To reconstitute dried porcini mushrooms, soak in hot water for 30 minutes. Remove and chop, and use the soaking liquid for braising chicken or cooking risotto.
These grow in a cluster and have a deep, nutty flavor when cooked. The frilly ends of the mushroom crisp when roasted and take well to smoking. Toss with a little oil, then scatter on a baking sheet. Roast until tender throughout and crispy around the edges. Try in tacos or in this savory mushroom breakfast bowl.
Rounded white to brown petal-like structures, oyster mushrooms are as versatile as button mushrooms, but with muskier flavor. Often found in so-called wild mushroom mixes, try grilling or sautéing them in large, hand sized pieces and use as a substitute for center-of-the-plate proteins.
King/King Oyster/Trumpet/Royal Trumpet
King mushrooms, with their thick white stem and small brown cap, were originally found in the Mediterranean and are now cultivated and popular in Japan. Slice them crosswise and sear like scallops or cut in half lengthwise and grill them gently over coals until smoky and tender.
The distinctive white pompom-like mushrooms take on the plumped texture of crustaceans when slowly caramelized in fat. Find them at farmers’ markets or grow your own. In addition to succulent texture, this mushroom may offer some surprising health benefits. Since 1991, researchers have studied the neuroregenerative properties of this mushroom and have since found multiple medical applications for it. One study showed that taking the mushroom in supplemental form increased cognitive ability in subjects in older men.