The ubiquitous white button mushroom, renowned for its delightful chewiness is the most common variety of edible mushrooms cultivated and consumed worldwide. These commonplace buttons are the fleshy fruit bodies in the Basidiomycetes family.
Scientific name: Agaricus Bisphorus.
|White button mushroom cultivation. Photo courtesy: Alison Harrington.|
The different varieties of button mushrooms available in the markets are the same A. bisphorus that is sold at various stages of growth and harvest.
Immature and white: Common button, or table mushroom.
Immature and brown: Chestnut mushrooms, or cremini. These have a thicker stem and a harder, pale brown cap. They have a more pronounced "mushroomy" flavor, and a meatier texture than white mushrooms.
Mature: Portobello mushroom.
Button/white mushrooms can be easily recognized in the shops/stores as they are widely available among cultivated mushrooms. Small, young buttons feature ivory-white caps closed around the stem. Larger buttons feature open caps with brown gills which become darker as they mature further.
Young buttons have pleasant, unassuming flavor, while their flavor intensifies in open-capped, larger ones. Avoid those featuring white underneath gills as they can be poisonous.
Under the supervised farms, cultivation of white mushrooms is undertaken on artificially prepared "compost" beds. Well-prepared, pasteurized compost works as a food source most suited for the growth of the mushrooms, keeping out other fungi and bacteria. In the next phase, commercially prepared mushroom seeds (Mycelium spawn) are then implanted evenly in the compost mixture.
The casing is a top-layered soil, spread over the compost-spawn bed. Clay, loam, peat moss, etc., can be used as casing. Casing helps retain moisture; prevents drying out of the underlying compost-spawn mixture and easily spreads, and growth of mycelium into rhizomorphs from where small mushroom heads appear (pin-head mushroom). Pin mushrooms expand and grow further into button size, soon ready for harvesting. Harvesting occurs in a 6-9 days cycle, lasting for 5-7 weeks.
Button mushrooms are very low in calories. They offer essential protein and amino acids, sufficient levels of minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Button mushrooms carry vitamin-D in the form of ergocalciferol. Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for bone growth and calcium metabolism.
It carries excellent levels of selenium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium.
100 g contain 0.318 mg or 37% RDI of copper. It is essential for blood cell production (hematopoiesis), neurotransmission, and as a co-factor for oxidative enzymes.
100 g of buttom mushrooms carry 9.3 μg or 17% RDI of selenium. Selenium is a co-factor nutrient for the antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase. It plays a critical role in the integrity of liver and heart tissues.
It is rich in the B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid.
100 g of button mushrooms carry 0.402 mg or 37% RDI of riboflavin (vitamin B-2). Riboflavin deficiency could lead to ulcers in the mouth, cracked lip and mouth angles (angular stomatitis), scaly skin rashes, etc.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.34 g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||3%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.497 mg||27%|
|Pyridoxine (B-6)||0.104 mg||8%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||2.1 mg||3.5%|
|Vitamin D||7 IU mg||1%|
|Vitamin E||0 mg||0%|
|Vitamin K||0 μg||0%|
Button mushrooms are available year-round in the markets. Select bright, clean mushrooms with firm, fleshy caps. Avoid those with discoloration, black spots, shriveled, bruised, and dry. Do not purchase those with a wet, slimy, or slippery surface as they are out of flavor.
Button mushrooms can also be available in cans in supermarkets. Look for the brand, authenticity, and validity periods before buying one.
Button mushrooms are easily perishable. When stored properly, they may remain fresh for 3-5 days. Once at home, unseal the plastic wrap, place it in a paper bag, or arrange it inside an absorbent paper towel where it remains fresh for three days. Vacuum-sealed packs will continue to be safe for up to 14 days inside the refrigerator. Sliced mushrooms go bad early.
Gently brush them using a soft brush or rub using a soft cloth to remove any surface peat or dirt. Peeling is not necessary as it makes them lose flavor. If the mushrooms are very dirty, rinse them in cold water for a few seconds just before using them in recipes.
Cleaned mushrooms can be used whole, in cubes, or in slices as you may desire in the cooking. They can be eaten raw in salads.
Here are some serving tips:
Finely sliced mushrooms can be added to soups.
Freshly diced mushrooms added in stews, in stir-fries with chicken, and seafood.
Large button mushrooms (portobello) can be employed for stuffing, grilling, and baking.
Fine sliced, diced button-heads are a common featuring ingredients in pizza, pasta, pastry, and potpie preparations.
Poisoning from consumption of cultivated button mushrooms is very rare. (Medical disclaimer).
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Further reading and Resources:
Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk. (Link opens in new window).