To select good, freshly picked mushrooms look for those that are firm and dewy, but with no rotten spots. The bottom of the stem should not be dry: this is a sign that the mushrooms were foraged several days prior. In nature, there are over 40,000 species of mushrooms, each with its own characteristics. The most common ones on the market are:
- Champignon, also known as button mushrooms, usually have a white or light brown cap with no discoloration. When the mushroom is quite mature, the cap widens and develops ridged on the bottom side. Cremini mushrooms or Italian brown mushrooms are a cousin of the button mushroom, but have a brown cap and stronger flavor.
- Oyster mushrooms are fairly meat and can release a significant amount of liquid during cooking, so they are ideal for preparing baked, grilled or stewed. Choose oyster mushrooms with a soft, silky cap, without dark or damp spots. Do not peel the oysters, but rather clean with a damp cloth.
- Porcini mushrooms are the kings of mushroom world and have a bulbous stem and fleshy cap. They are excellent sliced and sautéed with salt with garlic and shallots or braised in wine. They can also be added in soups, risotto or pasta.
- Chiodini, or honey mushrooms, have an aromatic flavor and should be eaten when still young, with a closed cap and tender stem. Like many other mushrooms, chiodini should not be peeled, but simply cleaned. If necessary, you can rinse them quickly so that they don’t absorb any additional water. In general to clean mushrooms, you should cut off the bottom of the stem, peel the stem to remove any dirt, use a pairing knife to peel the cap and use a brush to remove any remaining dirt.