The phrase “a fool and their money are soon parted” is an appropriate for the marketing madness that surrounds the simple fungi Agaricus bisporus. There is a reason why advertising / marketing executives are known as Madmen and we are even crazier for getting sucked into their gimmicks.
For everyone that raves about the earthy, meaty complex flavor of large portabella mushrooms, say hello to the older sibling of the common white button mushroom. There are only two distinctions between the portabella mushroom and the white button cap. The first is the number of days in which it is harvested and the second is that the white button cap is nothing more then a genetic mutant with only the color being different.
Agaricus bisporus is sold under many different names dependent upon the color, size and location. Here are some of the more familiar names you will find in the grocery store, farmer’s market and menu’s of restaurants:
- Common mushroom
- Button mushroom
- White mushroom
- Table mushroom
- Champignon mushroom
- Crimini mushroom
- Swiss brown mushroom
- Roman brown mushroom
- Italian brown
- Italian mushroom
- Cultivated mushroom
- Portobello mushroom
- Portabella mushroom
- Portabello mushroom
- Baby Bella mushroom
Regardless of the name in which is is marketed or sold, they are all the same. Native to both Europe and North America, the first record of Agaricus bisporus being commercially harvested was in France in the early 18th Century with the first pure cultured being isolated by the Pasteur Institute in the late 19th Century. The white button mushroom that is so familiar today was identified by a Pennsylvanian farmer in his mushroom bed. It was simply a genetic mutant of a brown colored Agaricus bisporus.
Having grown up just south of “mushroom country” in and around Kennet Square, Pennsylvania I always took the abundance of white button caps for granted and the smell of the mushroom soil as a fact of life. I never knew that an entire industry was based upon a genetic mutation of a brown colored Agaricus bisporus to a white mushroom. Likewise, after nearly 80 years of white mushrooms reigning supreme, the original colored and even maturer (later harvested) siblings command a higher price at the grocery stores. Simply amazing…
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