Portabella’s Provenance

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You say portobello; I say portabella.

Regardless of your spelling and pronunciation preference, these meaty mushrooms have become an international favorite.

But as I recently learned from Gourmet magazine, the big-hat mushrooms—a low-calorie, fat-free food, with more potassium per serving than a banana—are the spoils of a “brilliant marketing coup.” 

Portabellas are actually mature cremini (“baby bella”) mushrooms. A cremini’s gills are hidden under a closed cap, while a portabella’s gills are fully exposed. As the Gourmet editors note:

The dark spores released from open gills turn sauces black, so overgrown cremini were considered a waste product by the industry until their generous size and their use as a hamburger substitute turned them into a premium product with, naturally, a price tag to match.

Portabellas play a role in cancer and disease prevention, as discussed in New Research Confirms Mushrooms’ Status as Power Food:

  • High amounts of beta-glucans help keep immune cells in a state of vigilance, guarding against disease.
  • Mushrooms’ cells contain mechanisms that suppress breast and prostate cancer cells.
  • Mushrooms contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that contributes to immune support and protection of the eyes, skin, liver, kidneys and bone marrow.

Here are 10 of our favorite recipes featuring portabella mushrooms:

  1. Hot & Spicy Organic Portabella Brisket
  2. Mushroom Salsa with Cilantro
  3. Portabella Skins
  4. Portabellas with Arugula and Parmigiano
  5. Broiled Italian-Style Portobello Mushrooms
  6. Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms
  7. Stuffed Mushrooms
  8. Roasted Portabello Mushrooms with Beets and Goat Cheese
  9. Mushroom Sauté with Toasted Walnuts
  10. Mushroom Merlot Burgers

Photos courtesy of the Mushroom Council

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