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Buyers' Guide: Mushrooms

Updated: Jun 13

Chicken of the Woods (COW) Photo By: Chistine Mary

What are mushrooms?

All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. Fungi are a group of organisms that reproduce by using spores. Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting bodies of certain fungi.

What are mushrooms used for?

Most mushrooms have culinary uses, but there are a few that are used mostly for medicinal reasons. Below you will find list of common, medicinal, and commonly foraged mushrooms. While mushrooms are a great addition to almost any meal, they also make a great replacement for meat in vegetarian/vegan recipes.


Common Mushrooms

Mushrooms commonly found in grocery stores and farmers markets.

Black poplar (Cyclocybe aegerita)– Light earthy flavor, these make a great addition to steaks or meat substitutes.

Button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)– A staple in the grocery store. With its mild flavor and meaty texture this is currently the work horse of the mushroom world. It is a good complement to just about any dish, and a good base for meat substitutes.

Chantrelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius)- Chanterelles have an earthy or woodsy flavor and taste a bit like black pepper. Can be tough when raw.

Cremini mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)– are larger, more mature button mushrooms.

Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina filiformis)- Are tiny, delicate mushrooms that are crunchy when raw. Enoki mushrooms have a mild, earthy, slightly sweet, slightly fruity flavor. A great addition to raw salads. Sauté this mushroom quickly as it gets chewy the longer it cooks.

King oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus eryngii)– Are bigger, meatier versions of shelf mushrooms. These are great with red meats or for replacing any meat in a dish.


Morel Mushrooms (Morchella esculenta)– one of the most expensive culinary mushrooms. These delicate mushrooms have an earthly, buttery flavor that enhances any dish.

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)– Oyster mushrooms come in a variety of colors, pink, golden and blue are the most common. All are delicate shelf style mushrooms. These mushrooms are great for light flavored dishes and blend well into sauces.

Porcini (Boletus edulis)- Renowned for its rich, nutty flavor and meaty texture.

Portabella (Agaricus bisporus)- Big meaty, overgrown button mushrooms. Recently there has been controversy over the edibility of portabella mushrooms. Researching any new food is recommended.

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)– Are often used in Asian cooking, these mushrooms have a distinct bold flavor. Excellent for any Asian dish. Because of its distinct flavor use sparingly in meat substitutes.



‘Slimy’ mushrooms

There is a whole category of mushrooms that get slimy when they are cooked. These mushrooms release a compound when heated making them slimy. These mushrooms are often praised for their ability to thicken sauces, soups, and stews.  Two examples are:

Chestnut mushrooms (Pholiota adiposa)- Have a rich nutty flavor. Similar to shiitake, but milder.

Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)- A bolete with a slimy cap and has a pleasant nutty flavor.

Medicinal Mushrooms

These mushrooms are often used for their health benefits. Many of them are too tough to be used culinary and are usually ground into a powder for use in teas or supplements. Seek the advice of an experienced herbalist and discuss any herbal remedy with your doctor before use. Liver and other health problems may occur.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)– These are large ‘warts’ that grow primarily on birch trees. A much-coveted fungi, chaga is often used for boosting your immune system, fighting cancer, and lowering your cholesterol. This fungus is loaded with antioxidants and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) – Has been used for centuries to treat fatigue, sickness, kidney disease and low sex drive. In modern times it is being researched for heart health, boosting energy, anti-aging and anti-tumor properties, and for reducing inflammation.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)– Lion’s Mane is the most well-known comb tooth mushroom. It is a large, shaggy, sweet mushroom. Often used in tea, coffee or for medicinal reasons. This would be a good replacement in lighter, sweeter dishes. Often used for brain health, mild depression and anxiety, digestion, lowering the risk of heart disease, managing diabetes, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, and boosting the immune system.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)– Reishi has been used to boost the immune system, fight cancer, reduce fatigue and depression, and is an antioxidant.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)- A hard showy mushroom, banded and ruffled just like a turkey tail. This mushroom has often been used to fortify your immune system, maintain healthy gut bacteria, and support the treatment of some cancers.


Lesser Known, often foraged mushrooms

Please note if you are interested in foraging contact a professional or join a foraging group, many mushrooms look alike and can be deadly.

Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides)- Black trumpets have a complex rich nutty flavor with fruity notes and hints of smoke.

Boletes (Boletus edulis)– While some boletes are toxic, the edible ones range from sweet to nutty in flavor. Porcini is the most famous bolete.

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)- Commonly called COW, these firm shelf mushrooms taste just like chicken! Firm enough to batter and fry, these are an excellent replacement for chicken in any dish. Bright orange to yellow these mushrooms add color to any dish.

Comb tooth (Hericium)– A light almost sweet flavor reminiscent of shellfish.

Pheasant Back (Cerioporus squamosus)– Often tough when they get too big, these mushrooms have a deep earthy flavor that is great in soups or made into jerky.

Puffball mushrooms (Calvatia gigantea)– Though there are several kinds of puffball mushrooms, this book will focus on the giant puffball. These are huge, sometimes pumpkin sized, mushrooms found in the fall. They are firm all the way through and are excellent for replacing larger cuts of meat. They are often grilled or turned into puffball pizzas.

Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum)– These mushrooms are produced when another fugus takes over an existing mushroom. Lobsters have a sweet almost seafood flavor.

Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)- With a flavor compared to young asparagus, use these mushrooms soon after picking (hours not days) before they turn into an inky mess.

Shrimp of the Woods (Entoloma abortivum)- Similar to lobster of the woods but has a shape and flavor reminiscent of shrimp.


A special thank you to the members of the Minnesota Foraging and Foraging MN Morels and Wild Edibles groups for contributing pictures!

(Christine Mary, Roy Olson, Marie Candelaria, Mike Trump, Justin Hammers, Shelby Keppers, Jessica Marie, Christina Marie)

Gem Studded Puffball Mushroom By: Christine Mary

Did I miss something? Do you have a recommendation? Do you have a question? Let me know at



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