We have been buying a lot of cremini mushrooms lately. They're in the bin next to the more familiar little white button mushrooms, and they're slightly more expensive but oh so worth it. We got curious about this new favorite mushroom, and decided to look up a few mushroom facts. Here's what we discovered.
• Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all of the same variety? Its name is Agaricus bisporus, according to Wikipedia, and it includes portobello, cremini, and white button mushrooms.
• The difference between these popular varieties of mushrooms is just age. The white button mushrooms, those very familiar kitchen staples, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.
• The portobello is the most mature mushroom here; it's really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.
• The cremini mushroom, then, is just in between these two varieties. It's a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom, which is why it has a similar flavor. It's younger than the portobello, but still related, which is why these are sometimes sold as "baby bella" or "baby portobello" mushrooms.
We enjoy the cremini mushrooms a lot; their slightly more mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture, and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms. We use them frequently in stews and soups, since we find that they hold up better in liquid.
Here are a few favorite mushroom recipes:
• Recipe: Rich No-Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce
• Recipe: Hot and Sour Mushroom, Cabbage, and Rice Soup
• Recipe: Cipollini and Mushroom Tart
• More on mushrooms at Wikipedia
Related: Hey! You Can Wash Mushrooms
(Images: Faith Durand)
(Originally published January 14, 2009)