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    Castro Farmer’s Market: Mellow Mushrooms

    By Debra Morris–

    Button, shiitake, oyster, cremini, portobello, and many varieties of mushrooms can be found at your local farmers’ market. Mushrooms are a fungus, not a vegetable, even though they are universally used as a vegetable. They are unique, delicious, and often just weird! Edible mushrooms are a most prized culinary ingredient because of their versatility, diversity, and special earthy “umami” flavor.

    Here are a few of our favorite varieties of mushrooms. Be sure to purchase them at your farmers’ market, where you know they are just picked, very fresh, and safe to eat. Many of these varieties you will only find at your local farmers’ market.

    Button: Good raw, but more flavorful when cooked. The most commonly used mushroom.

    Cremini: A more mature version of the button mushroom, but a bit more flavorful with a meaty texture.

    Portobello: A fully mature version of cremini and button mushrooms; good for roasting and grilling, or in place of meat products. They’re great for stuffing because of their large size.

    Porcini: Prized and sought out for their smooth texture and aromatic, woodsy flavor. Perfect in pasta and rice dishes.

    Morel: Only grown in the wild, they are highly prized for their strong, nutty flavor and earthy aroma. Be sure to purchase these from a reputable forager because there are “false” morels that look the same but are poisonous! You can be assured mushrooms found at your farmers’ market are safe to eat.

    Chanterelle: Highly prized for exquisite flavor, color, and texture. Their rich flavor pairs well with eggs and cream sauces and they make your dish look beautiful because of their bright yellow to orange color.

    Oyster: Smooth texture and subtle, oyster-like flavor. They work beautifully in stir fry, ramens, or sautées.

    Shiitake: Earthy flavor like wild mushrooms, large, and meaty. Another mushroom that is good for stir frying and soups.

    When shopping for mushrooms, look for those that are firm and clean, with no dry or moldy patches. Do not keep mushrooms in plastic bags because lack of airflow will cause them to deteriorate faster. Wrap mushrooms in cloth or place them in a paper bag and store them in the refrigerator. Use as soon as possible.

    You’ve probably seen contradictory information on how to properly clean mushrooms. There are arguments for both sides: brushing them off or rinsing them. Both are considered viable ways to clean them. First, mushrooms purchased at the farmers’ market are grown in sterile soil. This dirt is not at all harmful, but it’s still dirt and who wants to eat dirt? Brushing them clean is the way to go. Use a mushroom brush specifically made for this use, or you can use a clean toothbrush.

    Another way to clean them is to run them quickly under cold water. You can also fill a bowl with water and place mushrooms in it. Rinse them around for no more than 8 to 10 seconds to remove grit. Then quickly dry them thoroughly. It’s important to note that mushrooms are like sponges, so any water you use will be absorbed into them. Do not clean mushrooms until you are ready to use them. They mold quite easily.

    Either way you clean them is fine. Just be sure to purchase them at your farmers’ market. As we say—fresh is best! You’ll find the freshest, tastiest mushrooms at your Castro Farmers’ Market from E&H Farms in Oakdale.

    Reminder: The Castro Farmers’ Market will be closing for the season on November 16.

    Please visit the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association website (link at the end)for other markets in your area until we return in the spring.

    Debra Morris is a spokesperson for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA). Check out the PCFMA website for recipes, information about farmers’ markets throughout the region and for much more:

    This Month at the Castro Street Farmer’s Market
    Published on November 3, 2022