A mushroom, or toadstool, is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
The standard for the name “mushroom” is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word “mushroom” is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) on the underside of the cap. “Mushroom” also describes a variety of other gilled fungi, with or without stems, therefore the term is used to describe the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota. These gills produce microscopic spores that help the fungus spread across the ground or its occupant surface.
Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as “bolete”, “puffball”, “stinkhorn”, and “morel”, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics” in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their order Agaricales. By extension, the term “mushroom” can also designate the entire fungus when in culture; the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms; or the species itself.
Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese). Though neither meat nor vegetable, mushrooms are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world.
Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of A. bisporus are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species available at many grocers include Hericium erinaceus, shiitake, maitake (hen-of-the-woods), Pleurotus, and enoki. In recent years, increasing affluence in developing countries has led to a considerable growth in interest in mushroom cultivation, which is now seen as a potentially important economic activity for small farmers.
1 pound(s) fresh mushroom(s), halved
1 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
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