July 16, 2023

Today’s Main Ingredient is Mushrooms!
Host Mikki Uzupes talks with grower Bryan Roth from Marley’s Organic Mushrooms in Milford PA, and Executive Chef Josh Tomson, from TREE, the farm-to-table restaurant at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley. Registered Dietitian Carol Kneier shares some of the health benefits of eating nutritious, low-calorie mushrooms.

Scroll down past the recipes, to be sure to listen to this week’s extras!
Marley's Pike County Maitaki

About Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the reproductive, spore-bearing structures (“fruit”) produced by many fungal organisms. Fungi are classed in their own kingdom in the tree of life, and are critical for our environment, both for their decomposition (“recycling”) of cellulose and other organic matter, and for the many fungal species that are symbiotic with trees and some plants. These fungi look like buried white threads (“mycelium”) which intertwine with tree roots to bring water and nutrients to the tree, in exchange for sugars.

Fungi can grow on a huge variety of substrates: in soil, on living or dead wood, living leaves or fruit, leaf litter & pine cones, animal dung, insects, and even on our skin or organs. Fungal species are responsible for many plant, and some human diseases. But fungi also provide us with a wonderful bounty of medicines and foods, including: penicillin, yeast breads, sauerkraut and other fermented foods & condiments, cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, and of course the edible mushrooms themselves.

Foraging and Growing

Edible fungi in basket 2012 G1As when foraging for any wild foods, it is critical you know with certainty the species of any the mushrooms you’re planning to eat. There are hundreds of thousands different species of mushrooms (and >5 million fungal species), many of which look very similar. Most are plainly inedible (too woody, tiny, slimy, spicy or bitter). Some are very tasty or medicinal. But some are highly disagreeable with human digestion and will make you sick for hours or weeks, and a few are deadly toxic. There are no rules-of-thumb for edibility; you have to identify the species.

The best way to learn to identify mushrooms is go foraging often with experts, such as Bryan, an experienced relative or with a mushroom club. Start by learning the terminology, buy multiple id books for your region and refer to them often (a mushroom in your hand never looks exactly the same as the pictures), and study just a couple of species at a time. Learn those really well, at different stages of maturity and in various conditions, and then build up your knowledge. “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Hobbyist and commercial mushroom growers commonly start with “spawn”, which is a media, typically grain or sawdust, that has been colonized from the spores from a desirable mushroom species. The mycellium in that spawn is then used to inoculate more substrate (dependent on the species, might be a tree log, sawdust or compost). With the right conditions the fungal organism will grow and produce fruit, which we call mushrooms. Some mushrooms can be grown at home indoors from a kit, or outdoors on logs using purchased spawn.

For more info:
Tasty Wild Mushrooms in PA
Various types of mushrooms, edible and others
Growing mushrooms for beginners or watch:

Growing shiitake mushrooms on logs
Growing mushrooms for profit

In the Kitchen

With foraged mushrooms cut out areas with tiny worm holes (unless you really want the additional protein) and any older parts that are decomposing. Do not clean mushrooms in running water, rather use a damp towel to remove dirt and other bits. Mushrooms contain over 90% water, which means they will shrink considerably during cooking. It also means that the more the water cooks out, the more their flavor intensifies. The liquid they shed is also rich in flavor.

Never store fresh mushrooms in sealed plastic, as they will quickly deteriorate, especially in the refrigerator. Instead use mesh, waxed, or paper bags, or leave the plastic open so air can circulate and moisture can’t accumulate.

Shiitakegrowing Each mushroom species has its own flavor, different from that of other mushrooms. Mushrooms vary in texture; some are denser and need more cooking, while others are quite delicate. Thus it is important to keep a variety’s texture, flavor and water content in mind when choosing how to cook it. Only use one new species of foraged mushroom in a meal, as if you have negative reaction, its important to know which species could be the cause.

Low- to medium-heat method: Cooking over low to medium heat is a traditional way of cooking mushrooms. With this method, you cook the mushrooms until they lose their liquid and begin to brown in whatever oil you are using. For 2 cups of uncooked mushrooms, this method takes 10 to 15 minutes to yield 3/4 cup. This method results in the mushrooms having a more concentrated flavor. The cooking also diminishes their crunchy texture unless they are of a very firm variety.

High-temperature method: Cooking over high heat for a much shorter time is a more modern way of cooking mushrooms. With this method, 2 cups of sliced mushrooms can be done in about 2 minutes or less and yield over a cup. However, for the most part the water is not released and so the flavor is not as intense and the crunchy texture remains.

Cooked champignon mushroom Vary these two methods to suit your needs. The old European cuisine favors the former method, while the new California cuisine favors the latter.

What oil to use: Butter, perhaps more than any other ingredient brings out the natural flavors of mushrooms. However butter does not work for high-temperature sautéing, because the butter will burn. Vegetable oil alone or a combination of equal parts oil and butter is best for cooking over high heat.

What to pair with mushrooms: All members of the onion family pair well with mushrooms, but use sparingly so as not to overwhelm the mushrooms’ natural flavor.

About salt: Do not use too much. Consider using soy sauce (which contains salt) instead.

Sauté first, then braise. Use butter if at all possible for this phase of your recipe. If you must use oil, use only a small amount. Braising is a good way to preserve mushrooms if you are freezing them.

The only times to bake mushrooms is when you are filling them with a stuffing or using them in a dish that requires baking. This is because mushrooms become wrinkled and misshapen during baking when they lose their liquid. Do not bake at too high a heat; keep the oven temperature at about 300 degrees F.


Grilled mushrooms (4791356905)Optionally, brush with vegetable oil. Broil or grill about 4 inches from the flame until the mushrooms are warm all the way through. Their water content protects them from burning quickly. If a mushroom begins to brown too soon, pull it away from the heat a bit and continue cooking. When grilling, cut a few gashes along the edge of larger caps to prevent curling.

Some mushrooms such as puffballs or buttons need added flavor from a coating and oil. Coat in egg, then flour, egg again, and bread crumbs mixed with herbs. Fry in oil at 325 degrees F in a pan or deep-fryer. Drain and add salt to taste.

Any mushroom that has been dried will never reconstitute to its original shape and will never taste like a fresh mushroom. But drying concentrates the flavor in certain species, such as morels, woodears, porcini or black trumpets. These are sometime crushed into a powder for making mushroom broth or for adding to soups.

To Reconstitute dried mushrooms: Cover 1 ounce of dried mushrooms in 2 or more cups of near boiling water, cover and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, but save the highly flavorful liquid which yields an excellent mushroom broth. Remove the stems from reconstituted dried shiitakes, as they are too tough to eat.

Braise, or blanch in boiling water. Drain well and put in freezer bags. It’s OK to combine several types, though not recommended for foraged mushrooms. Label and date the bag. Note: Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use, or plunge into boiling water and drain well before using.

Mushroom Recipes

Mushroom and Parmesan Salad – serves 4
Caution: some sources cite that about 4% of people have difficulty digesting the chitin found in the cell walls of raw mushrooms. Cooking the mushrooms eliminates that concern.
7 large white button or fresh porcini mushrooms, sliced paper thin
20 thin slices of soft Parmesan cheese
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garish: Extra virgin olive oil

STEP 1 – Combine all the ingredients except oil, and mix gently.

STEP 2 – Garnish and serve at room temperature as a first course.

Download Recipe

Braised Mushrooms – serves 4
About 1 hour: Serve as a side, over toast, or over poultry or red meat
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onions or scallions, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup poultry stock or water
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 1/3 cup water

STEP 1 – Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add onions or scallions and sauté over medium heat until almost transparent (do not brown).

STEP 2 – Add water or poultry stock and bring to a simmer.

STEP 3 – Add mushrooms and cover the pan with a tight lid. Turn the flame to slow and simmer for 1/2 hour. During this time, they will greatly reduce in size.

STEP 4 – Add salt, sugar, and soy sauce; stir gently. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

STEP 5 – Add thyme. Thicken with cornstarch/water mixture, stirring in a little bit at a time.

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Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Marsala – serves 4
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 cups of wild mushrooms, e.g. morels or porcini, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup Marsala or sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste

STEP 1 – Heat the oil in a medium skillet and sauté onion over moderate heat until it turns translucent.

STEP 2 – Add the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat, stirring often, until they just begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.

STEP 3 – Pour in the Marsala or sherry, add salt & pepper to taste, and lower the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the Marsala and the moisture from the mushrooms evaporates.

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Beer-Roasted Mushrooms – serves 4
8 large portobello mushrooms
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more
8 garlic cloves, smashed
6 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 scant teaspoon dried & minced)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
12 ounces beer, such as brown or pale ale, IPA, stout, or porter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

STEP 1 – Brush the mushrooms lightly to remove any dirt. Pull off the stems and discard or save for another use. Use a small spoon to gently scrape away the gills from the mushroom caps.

STEP 2 – Lay the mushrooms in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a flameproof roasting pan, gill side up. Drizzle with the oil, using your clean hands to coat the mushrooms evenly. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then scatter the garlic and rosemary around the mushrooms.

STEP 3 – Pour about three-quarters of the beer over the mushrooms (reserving the rest for deglazing). Roast (middle rack) for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have started to collapse.

STEP 4 – Use tongs to turn the mushrooms over and carefully push them around a bit to coat the gill sides in the roasting liquid. Flip the mushrooms back (to be gills side up) and roast for another 10 minutes, or until their juices have caramelized and reduced to about 1/4 cup.

STEP 5 – Taste, and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Remove the skillet or roasting pan from the oven and divide the mushrooms and garlic on individual plates.

STEP 6 – Set the skillet or roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in the remaining beer and use a wooden spoon to dislodge any stuck-on bits. Once the beer is bubbling and has reduced a little, pour the pan sauce over the mushrooms.

Serving ideas: Cut into thick slices to present on a platter, serve whole or in thick slices with steak, use for sandwiches, top a salad; or with extra large caps, add some tomato paste plus a sprinkling of cheese to the gill side, then broil to melt for a ‘portobello pizza.’

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Braised Mushrooms With Pancetta – serves 6
Note: Though dried mushrooms can be expensive, a very small amount is
all that’s needed to flavor this whole dish.
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
¼ pound pancetta (Italian cured bacon), cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts (also called pinoli)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thin
Salt & pepper
¼ cup Marsala
¼ cup chopped parsley

STEP 1 – In a small bowl, cover the dried porcini with arm water and let soak at least 30 minutes.

STEP 2 – Drain, strain soaking liquid through washed cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and reserve.

STEP 3 – Rinse the mushrooms well to remove all sand, discard any tough pieces, dry, and coarsely chop. Set aside.

STEP 4 – In a large sauté pan, cook the pancetta in the olive oil until slightly crisped. Remove with a slotted spoon.

STEP 5 – Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook over low heat until just golden.

STEP 6 – Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve with the pancetta.

STEP 7 – Add the garlic and onion to the pan and cook over low heat until softened.

STEP 8 – Add the reserved porcini, the fresh mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and turn the heat to thigh.

STEP 9 – When the mushrooms release their juices, add ½ cup reserved soaking juices and the Marsala, and educe the liquid until it just glazes the mushrooms.

STEP 10 – Seti in the parsley, pancetta and pine nuts, and correct the seasoning. Serve hot.

Options: Serve over pasta or egg noodles… add to scrambled eggs
If serving over pasta (penne is a good choice), increase the oil in the recipe to 1/3 cup. Toss the finished dish with 1 pound cooked pasta.

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Bryan RoffIn this week’s extras audio track: Bryan shares about his beautiful ‘mushroom leather’ hat, and some of the most common questions he gets from consumers at farmers’ markets. And Josh shares a wonderful dry-rub that he makes from mushrooms!

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Today's Main Ingredient is sponsored in part by:

Greater Pike Community Foundation
Overlook Estate Foundation
Wayne-Pike Farm Bureau

Thanks also to Fertile Valley and Wolfe Spring Farms for their sponsorship of the BoldGold radio station broadcasts.

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