Portabella mushrooms, also commonly known as Portobello mushrooms, are the most commonly eaten mushrooms in the world. Scientifically known as Agaricus Bisporus, the Portabella mushroom is an extremely versatile mushroom that also goes by several different names depending on its state of ripeness and maturity. For example, when immature, this mushroom may be known as the white mushroom, common mushroom, button mushroom, cultivated mushroom or table mushroom, chestnut mushroom, Swiss brown mushroom, baby Bella mushroom or Italian brown mushroom. Cremini is the name of the older but not fully mature version of this species of mushroom.
In its fully mature state, the mushroom is brown with a cap measuring 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm). This form is commonly sold under the names portobello mushroom, Portabella mushroom and portobella mushroom.
There are many names for this mushroom so for ease of reading, we’ll just refer to it as the Portabella from here. Because Portabella mushrooms are a type of fungi, they scavenge organic matter to eat, meaning they grow by absorbing nutrients from the ground and decaying matter, such as wood and manure. For this reason, they are extremely popular as meat substitutes, or simply as a way of increasing one’s plant-based protein intake.
Where To Find Portabella Mushrooms
Portabella mushrooms are native to Italy and have been cultivated since ancient times. They can be found in most supermarkets today but were originally also native to grasslands in Europe and North America.
How To Identify Them
The Portabella mushroom is easy to identify as it is much larger than the majority of other mushrooms – the cap is up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. It has a gray/brown cap and a vast, brown underbelly with dark brown gills.
How To Grow Portabella Mushrooms
It is relatively easy to grow Portabella mushrooms indoors or outdoors. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a Growing Kit as these often come with all the tools and growing products you’ll need. If you’re interested in the challenge of growing them in your garden or greenhouse, be sure that daytime temperatures do not exceed 70F (21C) and that night temperatures don’t drop below 50F (10C).
- They have cancer-preventing properties. Not only are Portabella mushrooms very low in calories, and an excellent substitute for meat in recipes, but they are also a good source of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, such as L-ergothioneine and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) have cancer-preventing properties and other anti-aging effects. They are very nutrient-dense and help to eliminate toxins that contribute to disease.
- They are a good nutritional substitute for meat. The Portabella mushroom is a good source of vitamins B2 and B3, which can help with energy levels, cholesterol, metabolism and blood pressure. The Portabella mushroom also has the indirect benefit of often replacing meat, which can have a positive effect on the overall diet, reducing the risk of heart failure, high cholesterol and even cancer. Portabella mushrooms have a similar mouthfeel and texture to meat, so they make an easy swap if you’re looking to avoid soy products, which can be high in salt and challenging to digest.
- Eating them regularly helps boost your immune system. The naturally occurring chemicals in Portabella mushrooms can have positive effects on cell death, growth and proliferation of healthy cells, lipid metabolism, and immune responses. In other words, regular intake of this fungus can actually keep you healthy and alongside regular exercise and a balanced diet, contribute to a healthy metabolism.
- They contain natural anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation and the immune system are linked – the ideal state of the immune system is one where it does not have to fight off foreign bodies that will compromise the body to the point of a shut-down. In this sense, anything that is anti-inflammatory can be hugely beneficial to the body’s overall health. The presence of L-ergothioneine in Portabellas can be useful in protecting against neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s disease.
How to Cook Portabella Mushrooms
Portabella mushrooms make great plant-based “steaks,” which you can cook using this Portabella mushroom recipe with avocado chimichurri.
For the “steaks,” you will need:
- 3-4 large Portabella mushrooms
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon A1 sauce
And for the chimichurri:
- 1 cubed small, ripe avocado
- 1.5 cups flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 medium minced shallot
- 3-4 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper
- Add the Portabella mushrooms to a shallow baking dish or large freezer bag and set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together your balsamic vinegar, cumin, olive oil, black pepper, paprika, garlic, and steak sauce. Adjust seasonings if needed.
- Add the sauce to the mushrooms and brush on all sides. Marinate for 5 minutes on each side.
- Prepare your chimichurri by adding parsley, shallots, red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a medium mixing bowl and whisking. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Add some avocado and toss to combine. Set aside.
- Heat a grill or large frying-pan over medium heat. Cook your mushrooms on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush on any remaining marinade while cooking if you want to infuse more flavor. To serve, top your Portabella steaks with avocado chimichurri and serve with a side dish of sweet potato fries.
The Portabella mushroom is popular all around the world for its rich and meaty flavor as well as its numerous health benefits. Use it as a replacement for meat or simply as a vitamin-rich part of any meal. It is easy to grow and easy to identify, which makes it all the more popular.
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