Mushroom Marketing Mania

Portabella Mushrooms Loose in Box

Medium Sized Portabella Mushrooms

White Mushrooms Loose in Box

White Button Cap Mushrooms

Crimini Mushrooms

Crimini Mushrooms

Mature Agaricus bisporus (Common Mushroom)

Large Packaged Portabella Mushrooms

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…



    • paul davis on March 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm
    • Reply

    I disagree completely. There are many strains of mushrooms and they have many flavours and colours. they are the same species but so are ALL Beef and ALL tomatoes and ALL chilli peppers…… but they are quite unique and different. The different types of mushroom impart different flavours due to the maturity of the product. (spores are typically present only in the mature mushrooms) A small button mushroom will taste completely different than a more mature “breakfast flat” mushroom that has matured and yes sold under a different name because it looks and tastes so different. Also, new brown mushrooms on the market are different genetically and at least the Europeans claim they impart a different taste.

    1. Paul, you are correct, there are quite a few strains of Agaricus bisporus. The clarify my thought in this post was that despite the variety of names used commercially, based upon generally accepted naming classifications, all of these mushrooms are the same just as all tomatoes are the same. The point I was trying to convey using your comment about all tomatoes are the same is that very few people would confuse the tomato is anything but a tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). How many people however would know that a Crimini and the Button are the same genus and species and not as different as a Shitake?

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