Do You Know This Surprising Fact About Mushrooms?

The Building Blocks of Flavor

When it comes to cooking, recipe creation is something that people either love or dread. For those of you that dread it, I get where you’re coming from. Finding the perfect balance of sweet, salty, acidic, bitter, or umami can take many failed recipes along the way. However, I stuck to recipes as a guide when I started cooking. As I explored and experimented with flavors, recipe creation became something I looked forward to. In addition, learning about ingredients, including mushrooms, helped me build confidence in the kitchen. 

The Wild World of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are my favorite ingredient to add a boost of natural umami, especially for my stuffed mushrooms. The earthy flavor and meaty texture can make or break their inclusion in recipes for a person. But even if you do like mushrooms, they can be an intimidating ingredient. White button, baby bella, and portobello are the most common varieties in grocery stores. But did you know that they are the same mushroom? 


Agaricus Bisporus

White, bella, and portobellos are all forms of Agaricus bisporus. Agaricus is one of the most popular mushroom varieties growing in over 70 countries, and makes up 90% of sales in the US. But how does one mushroom produce three drastically different variations in appearance and flavor? 

Harvesting Agaricus Bisporus

The short answer to how Agaricus bisporus age is that they start as white (the child), develop into bella (the teenager), and then mature into portobello (the adult). It sounds simple, but that’s only half of the explanation. It isn’t that you grow the same mushroom and pick it once it reaches the stage you want. If that were the case, you wouldn’t have white mushrooms that can be larger than bella.  

Aging Through Flushes

Instead, white mushrooms will turn into bella mushrooms after two or three flushes (commonly called harvests). As Agaricus bisporus is picked in the white mushroom stage and grows back, the newly developed fungi will darken and form into bella mushrooms. If not harvested, bellas will continue to grow, and the cap’s underside will open and form the portobello gills.  

The Difference In Flavors

Knowing how mushrooms grow may not be necessary unless you plan on becoming a mushroom grower. What will come in handy is knowing the differences in flavor and their common recipe uses. 

White Mushrooms

  • White button has the mildest flavor of the agaricus bisporus flushes.
  • Their mild flavor makes white button an excellent choice for pizzas, eating raw in salads, or additions to pasta dishes, soups, and other recipes.
  • They can range in size from 1/4 inch to 2 inches in diameter.  
  • White buttons may also be called button, table, common, and champignon.  

Bella Mushrooms

  • Bellas are more robust in flavor than white mushrooms. 
  • Because of the stronger flavor, they usually aren’t eaten raw in salads. 
  • When cooking, bella is interchangeable in recipes with white mushrooms. It all depends on how strong or mild of a flavor you’d prefer. 
  • They can range in size from 1/4 inch to 2 inches in diameter. 
  • Bella is also known as cremini/crimini, brown, and baby bello.  

Portobello Mushrooms

  • Portobello mushrooms have the most robust flavor and feature gills on the underside. The gills are edible and do not need to be removed but can be if you prefer.  
  • Portobello also has the lowest water content, which creates a meatier texture.
  • They are the largest of the agaricus bisporus variety ranging between 2 and 6 inches but can be larger. Portobello’s size makes them perfect for entree-sized stuffed mushrooms and plant-based burgers.  
  • Portobello slices are excellent pizza toppings or chopped as recipe additions. 

Storage Tips

Mushrooms are a delicate ingredient, primarily because of their water content. The water content can be up to 90%, making them mold or become slimy more easily. However, proper storage can help extend their flavor and shelf life. For the best quality, follow these tips: 

  • Plan to use mushrooms immediately or within a day or two of purchasing. This will reduce the chance of mold forming. 
  • Avoid any packages with moisture building up on the plastic wrap or caps that appear slimy.  
  • Once home, remove the plastic wrap from the packaging. This will reduce moisture forming inside. The best storage method is loose in a brown paper bag. The paper bag allows some air flow and absorbs excess moisture. 
  • If you don’t have a brown paper bag, you can also line the packaging with a paper towel to absorb moisture and place the mushrooms in a crisper drawer.  
  • To clean the caps, wet a paper towel until damp and gently wipe away any surface dirt. Because mushrooms will absorb water, only wash them immediately before adding them to a recipe. Cleaning before storing can lead to mold forming more quickly. 

Are you someone that enjoys mushrooms? If you do, I’d love to hear what your favorite variety is in the comments. And if you don’t like mushrooms, comment whether it’s the flavor, texture, or both that you dislike. 

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