You may think you know the answer to the question “what are porcini mushrooms”? Surely you cook with them all the time, but do you know how to tell them apart? Or what they can add to any dish?
Porcini mushrooms are very popular across the globe. They may be the most commonly eaten wild mushrooms, so knowing everything about them can help you save time, money, and how to adequately use them.
What Are Porcini Mushrooms?
These brown-capped mushrooms have thick, white stalks. They can be large or small, but they always grow wild. Porcini mushrooms aren’t cultivated, so they can’t be grown or farmed.
8 Simple facts about this mushroom explained
Fact #1: There are many kinds of porcini
Currently, there are at least 100 varieties of porcini mushrooms around the world. However, not all of them are edible. Porcini mushrooms can grow in North America, Asia, and Europe.
The most common way to refer to porcini includes porcino (Italian) or boletus edulis (Latin). If you hear the world boletes, this is just a plural reference to the edible porcini kind.
Fact #2: They have a very distinct umami flavor
Porcini are part of many cuisines across the globe. While some of it is due to their presence in these areas, it is also because they have a unique ability to create umami. Since they have a strong flavor, porcini can be used as the main ingredient when chopped, or in powder form.
Even more so, porcini is often the chosen ingredient in making mushroom or vegetable broth, because it can leave a long-lasting flavor.
Fact #3: They come in various shapes, sizes, and colors
While all porcini have a brown cap and white stalks, some caps can be an inch wide and others can be up to a foot wide. When they are young, porcini are short and chubby-looking. As they age, they begin to shape into a dome that flattens.
Young porcini are white and firm, but as they mature, they may change colors. It is common to find brown, tan, or yellow boletes. However, be aware that soft and spongy porcini should be used.
Fact #4: They are very healthy and nutritious
You may already know some of the general facts about porcini mushrooms, but did you know that they are very healthy? For one, porcini are a great source of vitamins, including vitamin B1, B2, C, and D. They also have a good amount of selenium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Even though the nutrient content can vary depending on the soil they grow in, these mushrooms are often very nutritious, because they grow wild in naturally rich soil.
Vitamin C and selenium in porcini are good antioxidants, so they can fight off free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that often leads to cell damage and disease. Vitamin D is often hard to get from anything other than animal products, but porcini contain a considerable amount. Finally, vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus support bone and cardiovascular health.
Fact #5: They have a mycorrhizal relationship with certain trees
Often, when you look for mushrooms in the wild, you can find them next to, or attached to trees. This mycorrhizal relationship refers to a symbiosis.
Porcini colonize at the root of trees because they are attempting to collect nutrients and water. They also store these same nutrients and release them for the tree to use as needed.
This is a beneficial relationship for mushrooms and trees, because it allows trees to get more nutrition from otherwise unusable soil. At the same time, the tree provides the photosynthetic fuel the mushrooms need to reproduce and grow.
Fact #6: They shouldn’t be eaten raw
There are conflicting reports on whether eating raw porcini is advisable or not, but the truth is, once you see porcini at a grocery store, they are past the point of eating raw. Only young porcini are sweet and buttery when raw. Once they mature, porcini should be cooked or dried before eating.
Fact #7: They are easy to harvest in season
If you want to find porcini, look for amanitas, the sister hallucinogenic mushroom that often accompanies it. Don’t consume this mushroom, but look closely at the area, as it usually points the way to porcini.
When you find porcini, go with the medium and small-sized ones. The big kind is usually filled with mushrooms. Once you grab the mushrooms, place them in buckets, wickers, or bags. Clean them carefully and cover them with a cloth.
Fact #8: They can be kept fresh, frozen, or dry
Keeping fresh mushrooms is best done in a container that allows for airflow. Porcini will last about 3 days when refrigerated, so make sure you consume them quickly.
If you won’t consume porcini right away, make sure you place them on a tray with waxed paper and freeze them for a few hours. You can then remove them and freeze for months at a time in a bag.
Finally, you can dehydrate mushrooms if you prefer. Simply chop them into thin slices and use your dehydrator. You can use them dry in any meal or grind them into a fine powder.