Connecticut supermarkets, gourmet food and specialty stores, as well as restaurants, often contain a fairly good variety of edible fungi beyond the well known white button, portobello, and oyster mushrooms. The markets typically sell both fresh mushrooms as well as more exotic dried “wild” mushrooms. Mushrooms can also be found in the canned foods section as well as the Asian/International Foods section. Some products contain unexpected fungi such as mycoproteins used as meat alternatives.
In this article we are attempting to discover and photograph as many different species of fungus as possible that are commercially available in Connecticut markets and restaurants. This article is a work in progress and we are still attempting to add to the list and obtain additional photographs.
Also known as the white button, portobello, baby bella, and crimini mushrooms. They are all the same species of mushroom at different stages of growth and development. Portobellos, baby bella, and crimini generally are regarded as having a richer flavor than the common white button mushroom. These are the most commonly available mushroom and are widely available fresh and canned and sometimes dried as part of a “wild” mushroom mix.
Fresh portobello, crimini, and white button varieties. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
Known as the oyster mushroom. The white variety is most common, however a variety of other colors are sometimes available including yellow, grey, tan, pink, and grayish blue. They are excellent mushrooms for stir frying and often used in Asian cooking. They are widely available fresh year round as well as dried. They are also often found in abundance in Connecticut forests in the summer, often growing on beech trees.
Fresh yellow and grey oyster mushroom varieties. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
Also known as the shiitake mushroom. Native to east Asia, it is now widely available fresh in most Connecticut supermarkets year round. It is also often found dried in Asian food stores. They are predominantly used in Asian cooking and are excellent for stir frying. In Chinese medicine they are considered to have medicinal properties and choice dried specimens can command a very high price.
Fresh small cap shiitake mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
Also known as the enoki mushroom. Native to east Asia, it is the long skinny mushroom used in Asian dishes. It can come in a few different varieties including ones that are not long and thin. Since they don’t have a substantial amount of flavor, they are often used as a garnish in soups and noodle dishes. They can occasionally be found in gourmet supermarkets and are almost always found fresh and in long form.
Fresh long cultivated enoki mushrooms. Source: Oriental Food Market in Norwalk.
Also known as the chanterelle mushroom. It is usually only available fresh seasonally in gourmet markets but can often be found in dried form year-round. It is one of the most flavorful mushrooms which pairs well with poultry and pastas with cream sauces. Connecticut has a few native species of chanterelle mushrooms, including the smooth chanterelle, and all of which are edible.
Fresh chanterelle mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
Also known as the porcini or cep mushroom, it is a bolete mushroom which has pores instead of gills. While it can rarely be found fresh in the produce section, it is more commonly found in dried form. It has a rich, almost nutty flavor, and pairs well with pasta and red meats. It is a common component of dried “wild” mushroom mixes.
Sliced and dried porcini mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Westport.
Also known as the black trumpet mushroom. It rarely found fresh seasonally in supermarkets, usually only for a week or two because they are quite delicate. Fortunately they can often be found in dried form year-round. It has a strong, rich flavor and almost floral, earthy aroma and best used sparingly. It pairs well with red meats and pasta dishes with cream sauces.
Fresh wild black trumpets mushrooms. Dried Can be found at Whole Foods in Darien.
The morel mushroom. Various species of these can be found for a very limited time when in season in gourmet food stores. They are also often available year-round in dried form and tend to be quite expensive. When fresh, they should be sliced lengthwise and inspected for worms. They can be fried in light batter or used in cream sauces but are best enjoyed simply fried in butter. They are considered one of the top gourmet mushrooms.
Fresh morel mushrooms. Source: Balducci’s in Westport.
Commonly known as hen-of-the-woods or maitake. Although they can superficially resemble a cluster of oyster mushrooms, they are a polypore so they have pores instead of gills. An excellent way to prepare this mushroom is to simply fry a small cluster in butter until slightly crisp and season with a touch of sale and pepper. Alternatively, they can be barbecued in a cast iron skillet and make an excellent meat substitute.
Fresh maitake. Source: Fuji Mart in Riverside.
The lobster mushroom. Rare, but they can be found fresh in the produce section of gourmet food markets when it season, however they are most commonly found as part of a dried “wild” mushroom mix. They have a firm texture and are bright orange on the outside with white flesh inside. Some say they have a slightly fishy flavor, although it is very mild. The almost neon glow of the orange skin makes for excellent contrast in dishes. Best served with poultry or in cream sauces.
Sliced and dried lobster mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
Known as the black summer truffle. Truffles have a strong aroma and flavor and are used in gourmet cooking. They are extremely expensive and found in a variety of forms including fresh, flavored oil, truffle butter, truffle salt, as well as a flavoring in snacks. Most truffle oil available in Connecticut doesn’t actually contain any real truffle and uses artificial flavoring. Fresh truffles can occasionally be found in gourmet food stores like Balduccis but command a very high price.
Sliced black summer truffles in a jar. Source: Whole Foods in Westport.
The king oyster or abalone mushroom is a different species of oyster mushroom as the common oyster mushroom. It is primarily used in Asian cooking and most often found fresh in Asian food stores as well as fresh in gourmet mushroom mixes in supermarkets. While it is thicker and more robust in structure, it more or less tastes the same as the regular oyster mushroom and should be prepared in the same manner.
Fresh king oyster mushroom. Source: Whole Foods in Darien.
The paddy straw mushroom (or just straw mushroom), these are those squishy small mushrooms often found in Chinese cuisine. While they can rarely be found fresh in Asian food markets, they are most commonly found canned in the Asian food section of supermarkets as well as in dried form in some gourmet food stores. They lose some flavor in canned form so are best prepared with a spicy and flavorful Asian stir fry.
Paddy straw mushrooms from a can. Source: Oriental Food Market in Norwalk.
Commonly known as the nameko mushroom, it is primarily used in Japanese/Asian cuisine. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is used in miso soup as well as stir fries. Like the oyster mushroom, it is also somewhat common in mushroom growing kits. They are available canned, dried, and occasionally fresh in Asian food stores.
Nameko mushrooms from a can. Source: Fuji Mart in Riverside.
Known as snow fungus, white fungus, silver ear fungus, or white jelly. It is used in traditional Chinese cooking and medicine and thus can be found in dried form in some Asian food markets. It has a jelly-like consistency and is somewhat chewy. Because of its delicate texture and requirement to be reconstituted, it is typically used in soups.
Reconstituted from a dried mushroom. Source: Oriental Food Market in Norwalk.
Commonly called the wood ear fungus or simply black fungus. It is used in traditional Chinese cooking and medicine and thus can be found in some Asian food markets in dried form. It must be reconstituted in water before preparation. It has a tough but crunchy texture and is sliced in thin strips and used in soups or sometimes as a pickled vegetable.
Dried form on the left and reconstituted on the right. Source: Oriental Food Market in Norwalk.
Commonly called the cloud ear fungus or simply black fungus. It is used in traditional Chinese cooking and medicine and thus can be found in some Asian food markets in dried form. It needs to be reconstituted in water before preparation. It has a tough but crunchy texture, tougher than the wood ear, and is used in soups or sometimes as a pickled vegetable.
Dried form on the left and reconstituted on the right. Source: Oriental Food Market in Norwalk.
Also known as the beech mushroom, clamshell mushroom, buna-shimeji, and bunapi-shimeji. It is most commonly found in gourmet wild mushroom mixes in the produce section. It is often used in Asian cooking. They are generally delicate and fare better in soups than stir frying. The brown and white varieties taste more or less the same.
Fresh white “alba” and brown clamshell varities. Source: Balducci’s in Westport.
Also known as the bluefoot (cultivated) or blewit (wild) mushroom. It is usually seen about once a year in gourmet and specialty stores if you’re lucky. The cultivated bluefoot mushroom tends to have a brown cap and only bluy on the stem. Wood blewits are generally regarded as a good edible, but they are known to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
A small group of fresh bluefoot mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Westport.
Most commonly known as the chestnut mushroom in the United States. It is a new mushroom to Connecticut and is just starting to hit the produce section of gourmet food markets. It has a very rich, chestnut-like flavor and scaly stem not unlike a shiitake mushroom. Because of its rich flavor it pairs well with red meats and wine-based sauces or bread stuffing.
A fresh whole cluster of chestnut mushrooms. Source: Whole Foods in Fairfield.
Actually a complex of 3 fungi: Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma tsugae, and Ganoderma lingzhi. It is also known as the reishi or lingzhi mushroom. While too tough and woody to eat, the mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a healthful tea for about 2000 years. It can be found in some health food stores in Connecticut.
Wild fresh Ganoderma tsugae mushroom.
A fungus which is a widely used starter culture for the production of tempeh at home and industrially. As the mold grows it produces fluffy, white mycelia, binding the beans together to create an edible cake of partly catabolized soybeans. The domestication of the microbe is thought to have occurred in Indonesia several centuries ago. Tempeh is considered a vegan-safe meat substitute and is prepared in a variety of ways including frying, steaming, and roasting.
Lightlife brand organic tempeh. Source: Whole Foods in Westport.
A microfungus that has a high protein content. One of its strains is used commercially for the production of the single cell protein mycoprotein. Fusarium venenatum intended for use in Quorn products is grown under aerobic conditions in culture vessels by what is known as the ‘Quorn Process’. Quorn is a commercial brand of meat-alternative products in the frozen foods section.
Quorn brand Turk’y Roast. Source: Whole Foods in Westport.
Commonly known as huitlacoche, corn truffle, or corn smut, it is a fungal plant disease that infects corn. The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of corn species. It is considered a Mexican delicacy and is usually eaten as a filling in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups. It’s rather difficult to find in Connecticut, but has been spotted on the menus of a few South American restaurants and specialty food stores.
Huitlacoche in a jar with added spices. Source: Key Food City Super Market in Norwalk.
The following additional fungus species have been spotted in Connecticut markets and restaurants but are still pending a photograph:
- Hericium erinaceus / Lion’s Mane
- Clitocybe aegerita / Poplar Mushroom, Velvet Pioppini
- Inonotus obliquus / Chaga
- Tricholoma magnivelare / Matsutake, Pine Mushroom
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