Porcini Mushrooms – A Richly-Flavored Fungus
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Porcini mushrooms (scientific name Boletus Edulis) are also known as penny buns, king boletes, or ceps. They are wild fungi that belong in the genus Boletes which are types of mushrooms with a full fruiting body and big unique-looking cap which is different from the stem, both in terms of color and texture. Their name (derived from the Italian word porcino) translates as pig-like and may refer to the resemblance of the young fruit bodies to piglets.
Porcinis are one of the most popular mushroom species in the culinary world because of their rich earthy taste and texture. They are widely available, and it is easy to buy Porcini mushrooms online.
Where To Find Porcini Mushrooms And When
Porcini grow natively in both deciduous and coniferous forests scattered across Europe, Asia, and North America. They start to grow and attach themselves on the tree’s underground roots but most of their fruiting body is visible above ground. The most common trees where you can find Porcini mushrooms are birch, beech, and oak.
When hunting for Porcini in these areas, search for gaps in the woods where the sun can freely reach the ground.
They like to grow in semi-sunny places and their peak season is during the Autumn.
How To Identify Porcini Mushrooms
Porcini mushrooms have the typical cartoon mushroom appearance with an umbrella-like cap. It’s what people often visualize when they think of mushrooms and is useful when foraging for them. However, you have to be extra careful as there are some poisonous Porcini look-alikes that may lead to health problems if you fail to identify them properly. First of all, Porcini mushrooms have a bun-like cap whose color ranges from yellow brown to warm reddish-brown. Their cap tends to be rounder when young and eventually becomes flatter and curled upwards as the mushrooms mature. Their caps can be as a big as 14 inches (35cm) in diameter and the stem grows on average between 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25cm).
Very important: when cut, the flesh of Porcini mushrooms is always off white and clear of spots or bluish markings. Their color also doesn’t change because of oxidation when cut. If you see any bluish markings on the sides of the stem, you are most probably dealing with a species called Boletus Huronesis, which is toxic and causes gastric problems.
How To Grow Porcini Mushrooms
You can grow Porcini mushrooms at home fairly easily using spores. You can find Porcini spores in plant nurseries or online at places like Amazon and Ebay. The process is as follows:-
- Get a large piece of corrugated cardboard and cut it into sections of approximately 2 by 3 feet.
- Layer each cardboard section in some sawdust injected with the porcini mushroom spores. Ensure that the entire surface is covered by the mixture.
- Roll up the cardboard and fold lightly as if you are folding a soft taco. The sawdust side should be inside and protected by the remaining cardboard. Use duct tape to bind the edges together to keep the folded cardboard in place.
- Place the cardboard sections in a cool and humid spot, at a temperature of between 60 and 64F (15.5 to 17.7 C).
- Spray the cardboard sections with water each day.
- Wait for 10 to 14 days for the mushrooms to grow fully and then harvest them.
Porcini mushrooms are naturally enriched with protein, fibre, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium and several other nutrients. This combination of nutrients can help with the following:
- Weight loss. Porcini’s low-calorie content and fibre are very useful for easing digestion and helping with dieting.
- Reduction of inflammation. Studies on mice have revealed that Porcini mushroom extract is capable of reducing inflammation in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma or other inflammation-related ailments.
- Prevention and treatment of colon cancer. One of the most impressive health properties of Porcini mushrooms is its potential to attack colon cancer cells before they spread further, as indicated by some studies.
- Anti-aging. The high content of antioxidant substances in Porcini mushrooms helps fight free radicals and slows down the aging process.
How To Cook Them
Porcini mushrooms have a rich nutty flavor with a hint of meatiness, which makes them an ideal alternative to meat, for vegans and vegetarians. They are especially good in risottos, pasta, stews, and soups. Due to the scarcity of fresh Porcini mushrooms, which tend to turn sour when they are cut and exposed to fresh air, dried Porcini mushrooms are a very common and handy option. They are full of flavor and you can use them easily by adding some liquid.
Here is a quick yet delicious soup recipe with dried Porcini mushrooms.
- ½ cup dried Porcini mushrooms
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- Heat the butter in a deep casserole and add the vegetables (excluding the mushrooms). Saute everything for 3 minutes and add the wine. Reduce for 2 minutes.
- Add the Porcinis and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Serve with a drizzle of heavy cream on top.
Whether you like them fresh or dried, Porcinis are definitely a must-try. They are versatile, delicious, and have a high nutritional value.
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