Facts about Crimini Mushrooms
While mushrooms have been harvested from the wild for thousands of years, they have only been cultivated since the 1800s. They are now widely grown throughout the world. Crimini mushrooms, also known as cremini, baby bellas or Portabellini, are a variety of button mushroom. They are more flavorful than the common white button mushroom, and Portabella mushrooms are actually a larger variety of crimini.
Nutritional Value of Crimini Mushrooms
Crimini mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamins B2, B3 and B5, copper, phosphorus, and potassium. They also contain high amounts of selenium, which is necessary for the activity of some antioxidant enzymes, as well as for DNA repair. In addition, crimini mushrooms contain zinc, manganese, and tryptophan, an essential amino acid.
Lower in price than many specialty mushrooms such as shiitake and maitake, crimini mushrooms offer many of the same health benefits. They contain significant amounts of phytonutrients including L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant. Linoleic acid, a fatty acid found in crimini mushrooms, inhibits the enzyme aromatase, which is involved in estrogen production. Studies have shown that consuming mushrooms may help to fight breast cancer by lowering estrogen levels.
It should be noted that individuals who have gout or kidney disease should limit the amount of crimini mushrooms in their diet because the purines contained in these mushrooms can contribute to a buildup of uric acid.
How to Choose and Prepare Crimini Mushrooms
When purchasing crimini mushrooms, choose those that appear fresh, with tightly closed caps. Avoid any that are dried out, slimy or have soft or decayed spots.
Mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag or spread out on a dish and covered with a damp cloth to prevent loss of moisture. If they are purchased pre-packaged, store them in the original package. They should be used within a few days of purchase. Dried mushrooms will keep for several months in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen. Dried mushrooms should be soaked in water for an hour before using.
Whether or not to wash mushrooms before eating them is a matter of opinion. The general rule is that mushrooms should never be washed because they are porous and will absorb too much water. Instead, they should simply be wiped off with a damp paper towel or cleaned with a mushroom brush, a small brush with very soft bristles that gently removes dirt or debris. However, some believe that mushrooms should be rinsed briefly in cold water and gently dried with a paper towel just prior to cooking.
The ends of the stems are often spongy, and should be cut off. Some recipes call for only the mushroom caps. The stems can easily be broken off, and can be used for making soup stock.
Mushrooms can be enjoyed in any number of ways. Sauteed mushrooms are a delicious side dish, and mushrooms add nutrition and flavor to vegetable dishes, stir-fries, omelets, sauces and pastas. Stuffed mushrooms are a wonderful appetizer.