Since ancient times, mushrooms have been regarded as the ‘Food of the Gods’. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt believed they had magical powers, while the Chinese used them for their health giving properties. Mushrooms have always had an association with the supernatural, particularly in Ireland where folk tales of Fairy rings and circles of mushrooms arose from their appearance in woods and fields overnight.
The word mushroom is generally applied to edible fungi but of the many thousands of species in the world, only a small proportion of them are in fact edible. Cultivated mushrooms are available throughout the year. Agaricus Bisporus is the most commonly used cultivated mushroom in Ireland. There are three main types: buttons, cups or flats. Mushrooms are a good source of riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and pantothenic acid.
Grown in a number of counties throughout Ireland.
The key growing counties include:
A good source of fibre, low in fat and with no cholesterol, mushrooms contain more vegetable protein per 100g than almost any vegetable and are richer than most in some vitamins such as B1 and niacin. Mushrooms also contain certain important minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, iron and copper and are low in salt.
How to Store
Mushrooms should never be washed before being stored. Leave in the punnet or paper bag in which they are bought. The bag can be put in a plastic bag to prevent any risk of moisture loss. Store in the bottom of the refrigerator or in a cool place.
If, despite all care, mushrooms do get dried out, they can be revived by being immersed in boiling water for up to 1 minute and then carefully dried.
How to Cook
Do not wash cultivated mushrooms as soaking in water dilutes taste and reduces vitamin content, just wipe over with a damp cloth to prepare for cooking. They do not need peeling; the whole of the cultivated mushroom, including the stalk, is edible.
Buttons: Have a delicate flavour and, because of their pale colour, are suitable for sauces. They are decorative for garnishing and can be used whole, sliced or quartered and added to cooked dishes.
Cups: Closed or open cups are very versatile and may be used in place of buttons and flats in most recipes. They can be sliced, quartered or chopped. Ideal in casseroles, soups, stuffings and for a topping or used whole for a quick snack or vegetable.
Opens and Flats: Fully mature with a rich flavour, these are best for grilling and frying. They make tasty snack on toast or with bacon, eggs, sausages, steak and other meats.