As one of the most popular mushrooms out there today, the Portobello mushroom is featured in many different recipes and is a vegetarian favorite. This mushroom can be found at grocery stores and specialty stores and is often sold in a smaller version, called the baby bella (or crimini). If you are a Portobello lover, avoid the pricey cost at the supermarket and grow your own. Follow our step-by-step instructions for the best Portobellos around, after reading our informational guide to the Portobello mushroom.
All about Portobello Mushrooms
What many people do not know about the popular Portobello (called Portabella by some), is that it is actually a large brown crimini mushroom. In fact, when a crimini reaches about 4 to 6 inches in diameter, it is deemed a Portobello.
Portobellos are some of the largest mushrooms around. They have a rounded, tan colored cap that is very flat. It has sort of an earthen appearance and has very dark gills on the underside. The stems are also very thick and white and they are edible as well.
The Portobello has Italian origins and is actually named for a town inItalybecause these mushrooms grow so prevalently there. They have been cultivated and enjoyed by people since the early 1700s and continue to be one of the most sought after mushrooms around. An interesting thing about Portobellos is that they can be grown stacked in different ways and at different lengths of time to achieve variations in their color and their size.
An excellent feature of the Portobello is that they have a very meaty texture and taste great in many different dishes. Because of their texture, they can work very well as a substitute for meat. In fact, large Portobello caps can be grilled and served on a bun just like a burger. The flavor of the Portobello is very rich, earthy and slightly nutty. This type of mushroom holds together well when it is cooked, so you can throw it into sauces and soups without worrying that it will break apart. Put it in baked pasta or rice dishes, or even substitute it for beef in a variety of dishes (one to try: lasagna).
Growing Portobello Mushrooms
Growing Portobellos is certainly not as detailed of a process as growing shiitakes or morels, but as with any mushroom, it takes a bit of finesse. You do not use seeds when growing Portobellos, but instead will use Portobello spores. It is recommended that you purchase a growing kit for these mushrooms, which will include the spores and the growing medium that is needed to achieve the best bellas possible.
Note: Many people like to grow their own mushrooms using just the mushroom spores and then inoculating their own medium for the mushroom. While this is considered the “scratch” way to grow Portobellos and other mushrooms, it is not recommended for optimum results with Portobellos. This is because the inoculation of the growing medium for Portobellos is a very complex process and is very prone to error. Growing from a kit simply cuts out the inoculation phase, but leads to a better growing environment for the bellas.
To grow Portobellos, you will need:
- Portobello spore kit (you can find these online from a gardening store, or in a store near you)
- A humid, moist area to grow your spores
Step-by-Step Growing Guide
- Step 1
Buy your Portobello mushroom growing kit. You can find this at any specialty gardening store, or online. This will save you lots of money and time and will lead to plumper, riper mushrooms.
- Step 2
Carefully read through all of the instructions. The kit will explain exactly what temperature is perfect for your spores. Most Portobellos thrive between 65 and 75 degrees F. You will also need to maintain a very moist growing area for the mushrooms, so keep this in mind when choosing the best place to begin colonization. Often a basement, bathroom, or even a closet can be the best place to grow your bellas. Or, you can place them outside during the spring or fall in a shady area.
- Step 3
Set the spores up just like the package says, making sure that you are following temperature and humidity instructions. After you have watered the spores and the growing medium, wait about 10 days. The mycelia should begin to grow within this time period. Make sure to water the area daily, with clean water that contains no chlorine whatsoever. This will force the mycelium to fruit. Also, ensure that you are keeping the area as dark as possible. If your kit comes with a tent make sure to use it!
- Step 4
Once your mushrooms begin to sprout and reach the desired size (remember that Portobellos are supposed to be pretty large) you can cut them off, rinse them and eat. Your kit should produce between two and three flushes of mushrooms before the spores and the medium will be completely depleted.
You will love having fresh Portobellos whenever you want them and with the easy to use kits, you can grow quality mushrooms fairly easily, without a lot of hassle or money spent!