Mushrooms are fungi characterized by their stems, caps and delicate gills. Edible mushrooms have fleshy bodies that lack the poisons, undesirable tastes and aromas of some wild mushrooms. The majority of the mushrooms sold in the supermarkets are grown on mushroom farms. Asia is one of the biggest producers of Portobello and white button mushrooms. Though these two mushrooms are derived from the same strain of fungi, they differ greatly in size and shape.
The white button mushroom is one of the most popular, and widely distributed and eaten mushrooms in the world. It is cultivated in more than 70 countries, with China being a major producer. Fresh button mushrooms have a white cap that fits tightly around the stem. As the mushroom loses its freshness, the cap separates from the stem and exposes brown gills underneath. Button mushrooms are small, have a mild flavor and a soft firm flesh, which gives them many culinary applications.
Largely produced in China, India and the United States, the portobello is produced by allowing the regular white button mushroom to continue to grow and mature. The result is a large, brown mushroom, with a hearty texture and a stronger earthy smell. Unlike the button mushroom, the portobello’s gills are exposed when harvested. Therefore, freshness can be determined by the firmness of the gill’s structure, as older mushrooms have wilted mushy innards.
Portobello mushrooms have a higher level of riboflavin and niacin than button mushrooms. The enzymes help the body break down carbohydrates, amino acids and fats. On the other hand, white button mushrooms best the portobello in other vitamins such B5 and B12, which can help the body to produce hemoglobin, insulin and antibodies.
Mushrooms can be sliced or used whole for culinary preparations. The portobello’s hearty texture makes it a perfect substitute for meat in vegetarian and vegan cuisines. The mushroom can be marinated and grilled whole or sliced and cooked with meats. Also, the mushroom can be served as an entrée, stuffed with everything from seafood to fresh veggies.
The button mushroom is a versatile mushroom that can be eaten raw or cooked. Though the mushroom isn’t as substantial as the portobello, it can be cooked alone, sautéed in garlic butter and herbs, or incorporated into salads, sauces, soups and other main dishes. Like the portobello, the mushroom can also be stuffed, when it is usually served as an appetizer.