They are everywhere, legion. Erupting from the dark, invading plant pots, colonising any damp filled nook or cranny.
Every meadow has its crop. Shaded lawns collect them.
Mushrooms are extraordinary, not strictly a vegetable, fruit or herb. So why this particular 1980’s advert about them should be such an ear worm for me, I confess, I don’t know. It could just as easily have been Shirley Conran’s “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom.” At least that’s culinary. Her book of household tips and how to over come the daily chore of catering for the family, was published when women were beginning to carve out careers for themselves. Now of cause there has been a revival on the domestic front, with programmes like “The Great British Bake Off” making us revaluate the task of cooking, a skill we can all at some level achieve and be proud of.
I digress. As I said, mushrooms are exceptional. They inhabit that unique category called the fifth flavour, umami, being neither sweet or sour, salty or bitter. Their taste is rich, earthy, almost meaty and rounds out the other flavours in a dish. Mushrooms are easy to cook with, generally only requiring a few minutes to cook, although as a casserole ingredient they stand up to a long cooking time without falling apart.
Mushrooms are used in medicine offering health benefits to those who suffer from arthritis, inflammation or minor heart problems. There are literally thousands of different fungi and they have a myriad uses other than being consumed by us. Many are of cause poisonous so if you fancy foraging, please take an expert with you.
The most common in cooking are the white button mushrooms which are available all the year round. They are still the favourite extra on a breakfast, quartered and sautéed, we add a little fresh lemon juice to the mix.
They make a great soup and are wonderful as a stroganoff. They are added to our chicken casserole and we use them in our vegetable risotto and omelettes. On a cold autumn morning what could be nicer than a bacon and mushroom sandwich?