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3.1.4: Mushrooms,Truffles, Onions, and Roots

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    Mushrooms are members of a broad category of plants known as fungi. (Fungi have no seeds, stems, or flowers; they reproduce through spores.) Mushrooms have a stalk with an umbrella-like top. Although not actually a vegetable, mushrooms are used and served in much the same manner as vegetables.

    Several types of cultivated mushroom are available. They include the common (or white), shiitake, crimini (also known as the Italian brown), straw, enokidake (also called enoki) and cloud ear (also known as wood ear or Chinese black). Button mushrooms are the smallest, most immature form of the common mushroom. The largest cultivated mushroom is the portabella, which is actually an overgrown crimini; it can grow up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter.

    Mushroom safety. Some mushrooms are deadly; others can cause severe illness. Picking edible mushrooms in the wild is not simply a process of comparing specimens with photographs or illustrations in a guidebook. So do not gather mushrooms from the wild unless you are accompanied by a well-trained, experienced mycologist or guide. Always purchase wild mushrooms from reputable purveyors.



    Truffles are actually tubers that grow near the roots of oak or beech trees. They can be cultivated only to the extent that oak groves are planted to encourage truffle growth. The two principal varieties are the Perigord (black) and the Piedmontese (white). Fresh truffles are gathered in the fall and are rarely marketed outside their locale. Truffles, especially white ones, have a strong aroma and flavor, requiring only a small amount to add their special flavor to soups, sauces, pasta and other items. 



    Bulb Onions

    Common or bulb onions may be white, yellow (Bermuda or Spanish) or red (purple). Medium-sized yellow and white onions are the most strongly flavored. Larger onions tend to be sweeter and milder. 


    Onion Varietals


    Garlic is also used in almost all the world's cuisines. A head of garlic is composed of many small cloves. Each clove is wrapped in a thin husk or peel; the entire head is encased in several thin layers of papery husk. 



    Leeks look like large, overgrown scallions with a fat white tip and wide green leaves. Their flavor is sweeter and stronger than scallions, but milder than common bulb onions. Leeks must be carefully washed to remove the sandy soil that gets between the leaves.



    Scallions, also known as green onions or bunch onions, are the immature green stalks of bulb onions. The leaves are bright green with either a long and slender or a slightly bulbous white base.



    Shallots are shaped like small bulb onions with one flat side. When peeled, a shallot separates into multiple cloves, similar to garlic. They have a mild, yet rich and complex flavor.


    Roots and Tubers

    Taproots (more commonly referred to as roots) are single roots that extend deep into the soil to supply the above -ground plant with nutrients. Tubers are fat underground stems. Most roots and tubers can be used interchangeably. All store well at cool temperatures, without refrigeration. These include, beets, carrots, potatos, celery root, turnips, water chestnuts, parsnips, radishes and rutabagas.

    • Click the Graphic bellow to lean more about the uses of root vegetables:

    Root Vegetables

    "Root Vegetables" by Skånska Matupplevelser is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.


    Stalk vegetables are plant stems with a high percentage of cellulose fiber. These vegetables should be picked while still young and tender. Tough fibers should be trimmed before cooking. Stalks include artichokes, asparagus, bamboo shoots, celery, fennel, and hearts of palm.

    Baby Vegetables

    Many fine restaurants serve baby vegetables: tiny turnips, finger-length squash, miniature carrots and petite heads of cauliflower.

    Discussion Questions: Spinach, mushrooms, truffles, pods and seeds
    1. When is the best time to pick collard greens?
    2. Name two kinds of greens.
    3. What type of mushrooms are most commonly used in cooking?
    4. Describe shallots and green onions. Which one is commonly used in south Louisiana dishes?
    5. Other than its use in gumbo – how else may okra be prepared/cooked?

    This page titled 3.1.4: Mushrooms,Truffles, Onions, and Roots is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by William R. Thibodeaux.

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