Mushrooms are nutritious and delicious and come in many varieties depending on your region and culture. This is especially true for those who eat vegetarian and organic. A handful of popular mushrooms are used regularly in cooking, whether they are added to sauces, pizza, pasta or salads. If you are searching for mushrooms in the wild that are edible, exercise great care when searching for and consuming them; several varieties can be fatal when consumed.
The yellow or golden chanterelle mushroom (Cantharellus cibarius) is known as the glamorous mushroom, prized for its golden appearance and fruity aroma and flavor. These distinctive characteristics make it seem more like a fruit or flower then a fungus. In the wild, this mushroom is easy to identify by its bright golden yellow color. These are in season from June to September, growing in the forest under conifer or oak trees. They are smooth and firm, perfect whole in pasta dishes, stir-fry dishes or served atop steaks sliced thickly.
Morels, among the most common mushrooms in North America, are used often in cooking for their delicate flavor and versatility. These mushrooms are the first fungi to grow after flowers appear in the spring. They flourish in moist soil with a sandy consistency, by streams or under apple, elm and ash trees. These mushrooms can range from steel gray to creamy yellow, with colors such as tan and gold in between. These mushrooms, with a firm texture and large caps, are used in almost any type of cooking.
Black trumpets are some of the rarest and most valuable mushrooms, especially in French cuisine. The black trumpet is fragrant and aromatic, with a fine, delicate taste and texture. When you smell one, you will think you are sniffing grapes or apricots. These are in season during the summer months and grow rapidly under oak trees but never on wood. And don't let the name fool you: black trumpets can range from pink to gray to chocolate brown in color. These can be expensive, whether you buy them from a farmers market or to top a dish in a restaurant.
These mushrooms have a different name wherever you go. In France, it is known as the cep. In Italy it is the porcini, and in the United states it is known as the king bolete. This variety is common, with a light, crisp flavor and the ability to stay firm after being cooked, unlike other mushrooms. They are in season from summer to early fall and are most recognizable by their growth of clusters. The color spans from dark red to brown, to creamy white. The top differs from other mushrooms as it is skinny and dome-shaped, with a spongy texture.