What makes mushrooms so fascinating? Many people claim that the answer is how many species there are.
Some, like Lion’s mane, have reported health benefits.
Several varieties make for a delicious snack and are found in dishes globally. There are also several poisonous options that humans and animals need to avoid.
How many mushroom species are there?
Estimates are that there are anywhere from 10,000–14,000. While we won’t forage our way through all of them, we do highlight some of the most common of the edible variety.
Many options, like oyster mushrooms, are low in calories and have excellent nutritional value.
Let’s kick things off by looking at the various mushroom categories.
There are four categories of mushrooms:
There are edible species in various groups, but some affect the body differently. While the selection at supermarkets is safe for consumption, sellers provide spores of hallucinogenic mushrooms only for taxonomy and microscopy.
Let’s look at 13 familiar favorites and what each offers. Some are pretty common, while others are scarce delicacies.
Known by many names, king oyster mushrooms are the largest in their genus. In certain regions, locals call it king trumpet, french horn, king brown, or eryngii.
The mushrooms have a delectable meaty texture, and Asian cuisine features them frequently. They go well with garlic, umami, and soy sauce, but there are more exotic ways to enjoy this fungi species.
These mushrooms grow in various parts of the world, including the Mediterranean region, North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Smaller varieties tend to be more flavorful when eaten raw.
When shopping for king oyster mushrooms, it’s best to look for ones with firm stems. If they’re still dusted with soil, brush them off instead of washing them. It’s challenging to get them dry once wet, which affects their appearance and texture when cooked.
These delicious mushrooms have various reported health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. Like oyster mushrooms, they flourish in multiple regions, including North America.
Portobello mushrooms are native to Italy but grow all over Europe. Their appearance is white with a dark brown underside. They have a meaty texture and a savory flavor.
Button mushrooms are common and found in most kitchens. They’re a fantastic addition to home-cooked meals. Their flavor is mild, and the texture is semi-firm.
These fungi are tiny and measure around 1–3 inches across the top. Interestingly, these mushrooms get harvested during the early stages of life; when they mature, they develop into cremini and later portobello varieties.
The name comes from appearance. Lion’s mane mushrooms are edible but consumed mainly for reported health benefits rather than culinary enhancement.
Research is limited, but many people use them to assist with ailments like:
An eye-catching variety that grows wild is chicken of the woods. Its vibrant colors range from yellow to orange, and nature lovers easily spot them growing on the wood or base of dying trees.
The fungi favor hardwood hosts like beech, cherry, and oak. In some cases, they also grow on eucalyptus and conifers. The mushrooms have a meaty yet citrus flavor. Some describe it as similar to chicken, while others claim that the taste is reminiscent of crab or lobster.
Since chicken in the woods is a wild mushroom, cook it before eating. In rare cases, it can upset the stomach, so it’s a great practice to try a little and wait 48 hours for a reaction.
Like king oyster mushrooms, the shiitake variety is popular in Asian cuisine. It also forms part of traditional medicine practices in the region. They’re medium-sized, measuring around 2–4 inches across the top, and have a brown hue.
These fungi grow on decaying trees. Although shiitake mushrooms originate in the east, they’re also available in regions like Canada and the United States.
True to their name, these fungi resemble tiny black trumpets. They’re wild mushrooms that flourish during the autumn and summer months.
Black trumpets date back to Greek Mythology, where they’re believed to symbolize the horn of the sacred goat Amalthea.
Mushroom hunters typically find them in forests, close to broad-leafed trees. They prefer dark, damp environments where they grow in clusters.
These mushrooms have a soft, velvety texture similar to suede. They have a rich, smoky flavor with hints of bitterness.
Although cordyceps aren’t technically mushrooms, they fall into a rare classification of fungi. They grow as parasites on insects and have a history in traditional Eastern medicine.
Recently, they found favor among fitness communities as a supplement. Some of the reported benefits include improved endurance and oxygen consumption.
Also known as the blue stalk mushroom, wood blewits look like they come out of a fairytale. They have an attractive purple color and a distinctive citrus fragrance. They’re sometimes confused with poisonous species because of their lilac hue.
These mushrooms are short and stout with a pale pink spore print. For safe consumption, cook these mushrooms. They go well in stews and omelets.
Chanterelle mushrooms are one of the most popular of the wild variety. They’re low in calories, like oyster mushrooms. They have a distinct funnel shape and come in orange, yellow, and white.
Chanterelle mushrooms grow in woodland areas where the ground is moist and mossy. Heavy rains encourage their development.
These fungi have a firm texture with forked, blunt ridges. They have a peppery flavor with a lightly fruity aftertaste.
A relative of the king oyster, this variety is common throughout Europe. During the first world war, German cultivators produced these fungi for subsistence purposes.
These mushrooms have a delicate texture and savory flavor. Enjoy them sautéed, roasted, braised, or grilled.
Morel mushrooms are rare, delicate fungi with a meaty texture. They grow in the wild and have a honeycomb exterior. To thrive, they need a warm, wet environment making them difficult to cultivate.
These scarce trees have a nutty, earthy flavor. They contain various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
One of the most popular mushrooms in ancient Asian medicine is lingzhi, also known as reishi. Its appearance is kidney-shaped with shades of red and brown. The texture is soft, similar to cork.
Although research in modern medicine is limited, some people use mushroom supplements for health purposes. They report that it helps with conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stress, and fatigue.
There are so many different types of mushrooms, and each has a unique taste and texture. Add them to various cuisines to enhance the flavors, or cook them as a side dish to complement the rest of the meal.
Why not explore the world of mushrooms even more? Visit Fungushead to discover more about magnificent fungi.