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Wild Mushrooms

Types of Wild Mushrooms Often Found at Market

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Truly wild mushrooms are foraged. That is, someone walks through the woods or meadows looking for a picking edible fungi. Shitakes, criminis, oysters? Not wild. They're usually cultivated. There's nothing wrong with cultivated mushrooms, nothing at all, but wild mushrooms have a greater range of flavors - not all chanterelles taste alike, for example, and one batch of morels can be much earthier than another. Look for these truly wild mushroom varieties.

Black Trumpets

Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Photo © Molly Watson
Black trumpets start out a dark brown, even sort of a grayish color. Once picked, however, they fairly quickly turn their eponymous color (see my story on the subject here). Like all wild mushrooms, black trumpets should be thoroughly cooked before eating.

Chanterelles

Photo © Molly Watson

Chanterelles are, along with morels, the most commonly found wild mushrooms at markets and on menus in the United States. They have a slightly spicy edge along with their woodsy flavor and hold their firm texture better than most mushrooms when cooked.

Like all mushrooms, chanterelles should be cleaned with a soft brush before using. Avoid washing them in water, if possible, since they will absorb a lot of liquid quickly.

Chanterelles are available from someplace in North American for the better part of the year. Foraging starts in warmer climes as early as late spring, moves north through the summer and fall when they are at their peak in most areas, and then are available from warmer areas again through early winter.

Hedgehogs

Hedgehog Mushrooms
Photo © Molly Watson
Hedgehog mushrooms look a lot like chanterelles and have a similarly sweet, nutty flavor when they're young. Older specimens take on a decidedly bitter, even unpleasant metallic flavor. I like them best quickly sautéed in a bit of oil or butter over high heat. A sprinkle of salt and chopped parsley... delicious snack or appetizer, or use them to top flatbreads or pizzas.

Lions Mane Mushroom

Photo © Molly Watson
Like most wild mushrooms, Lions Mane are found in late summer and fall in most of the U.S. and Canada. Big, white, and shaggy looking, lions mane have a delicate mushroom flavor and lose lot of volume when cooked. They are best cooked quickly over very high heat.

Lobster Mushrooms

Photo © Molly Watson
Lobster mushrooms are so named for their brilliant red color, not because they taste like crustaceans.

Maitake Mushrooms

maitake-mushrooms.jpg
Photo © Elisa Cicinelli/Getty Images
Also known as "hen of the woods," this frilly mushroom cooks up quickly with great flavor and a delicate texture. When I'm lucky enough to have a maitake in hand, I put the knife aside and simply pull it apart into pieces to cook it (in a pan with plenty of butter and a sprinkle of salt at the end).

 

Morels

Photo © Molly Watson

Along with chanterelles, morel mushrooms are the most widely available truly wild mushrooms. Shaped like spongy cones, morels come in shades from ivory to deep black. They have a light woodsy flavor and wonderful firm yet spongy texture.

Morels can handle exposure to water and a good rinsing better than other mushrooms. Good thing, because their cone shape and sponge-cell exterior often require a bit of extra cleaning. Feel free to rinse them - quickly! - in water if you have particularly dirty specimens.

Also in pointed contrast to most mushrooms, morels are spring, rather than fall, delicacies. The exact season varies by climate, but morel foraging begins in spring, whenever that occurs where you are. Learn more About Morels here.

Trumpet King Mushrooms

Photo © Molly Watson
Trumpet kings are wonderful simply chopped or sliced and sauteed in butter, with a bit of salt sprinkled at the end. Their mild flavor and firm texture and make them suitable in tarts, soups, and other places button or other cultivated mushrooms are called for.

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