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Types of Mushrooms

Fresh mushrooms abound in supermarket vegetable bins, farmers’ markets, and specialty grocers’ baskets. While mycologists study them, mycophiles (mushroom lovers) and mycophagists (mushroom eaters) forage, gather and cook them to their hearts’ content. They are earthy and meaty, a delight in many meals.

“A mushroom is the fruiting structure of the fungus and consists of a cap and stem,” as defined on the general information fact sheet on commercial mushrooms released by the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University. “The mycelium is the fine “root” system that grows in the composted substrate adsorbing nutrients and water.”

Classified under the kingdom of Myceteae in the scientific world, mushrooms are also known as macrofungi because of the “easily visible fruiting bodies” they produce, along with puffballs, polypores and more, according to the Australian Fungi website of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Australian National Herbarium.

Out of the 14,000-15,000 known macrofungi, about 5,000 species are edible of which “more than 2,000 species from 31 genera are regarded as prime edible mushrooms.” This is according to the United Nations (U.N.) “Training Manual on Mushroom Cultivation Technology” (Asian and Pacific Centre for Agricultural Engineering and Machinery).

The types of mushrooms here reflect the three main ecological classifications listed in the U.N. mushroom manual (saprophytes, parasites and symbiotic). To further get to know mushrooms, we also included white, dried and wild mushrooms in the types of mushrooms list.

The saprophytes
The saprophytes, according to the U.N. mushroom manual, “obtain nutrients from dead organic materials.” These mushrooms are basically decomposers, hence the name. Most of the edible mushrooms we know, especially the cultivated ones, belong to this type of mushrooms. These include morels, shiitake, Portobello, button, cremini, oyster, black trumpet and chicken of the woods.

The symbiotic species
The symbiotic fungi co-exist with their environment. Amongst them are the mycorrhizal mushrooms. These types of mushrooms “live in a close physiological association with host plants and animals — thereby forming a special partnership where each partner enjoys some vital benefits from the other,” according to the U.N. mushroom manual. Edible examples of this type include porcini, chanterelles, matsutake, and the Perigold black truffle.

The parasitic and termitocytes
Since most edible mushrooms are saprophytes, there are only a few under the parasitic classification, according to the U.N. mushroom manual. As can be gleaned from the word, these mushrooms thrive on living organisms, effectively destroying it in the process. Examples of this species include the honey fungus, caterpillar fungus, and lion’s mane. On the other hand, a mushroom called het phouak, which is a delicacy in Laos and countries in eastern and central Africa. “The termitocytes, which live in symbiosis with termites,” according to the “Domestication of mushrooms from the miombo woodlands: current status and crucial issues for agroforestry” by Esron Munyanziza for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

White Mushrooms
If your idea of a mushroom stems from the white, button-shaped type available fresh or canned, it’s because it’s the most common variety around. The size of the Agaricus bisporus can be as small as the button mushroom to the giant portabella mushrooms. This group belongs to the Agaricaceae family, genus Agaricus. “Creamy white to pale tan, they have a firm texture and a delicate flavor,” as described in Real Simple Magazine on “Common Mushroom Types.”

Dried Mushrooms
While fresh mushrooms are often available during the season, dried mushroom varieties abound for most times of the year. These dried mushrooms can be re-hydrated in water and then used in various dishes. Examples of mushrooms that can be dried include shiitake, morel, morchella, porcini, portabella, chanterelle, oyster, black trumpet, matsutake, cremini, black fungus, white fungus, wood ear and cepe.

Dried

Dried

A good way to start cooking with mushrooms is [...]

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Mushroom Collecting

Mushroom Collecting

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Parasitic and Termitocytes

Parasitic and Termitocytes

Since most edible mushrooms are saprophytes, there are only [...]

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Symbiotic

Symbiotic

The symbiotic fungi co-exist with their environment. Amongst them [...]

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The Saprophytes

The Saprophytes

The saprophytes refer to fungi that get their nutrients [...]

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White Mushrooms

White Mushrooms

The white mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are the most visible [...]

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