Everyone’s got their restaurant menu pet peeves. Well, at least everyone in my family seems to. My father, for example, loves to challenge waiters on anything related to the veal on their menu. Me…wild mushroom misrepresentation drives me nuts. So, I want to set the record straight by talking about what is a wild mushroom.
But, I’ll start by telling you what isn’t a wild mushroom. Despite what most restauranteurs and retailers like to pretend, the following ARE NOT wild mushrooms: shitake, oyster, portabella, cremini. They are delicious and they may sound exotic, but they are anything but wild. In fact, they are just as wild as a carrot…the only connection they have to the wild is that they originate from a formerly wild species. But, to be clear, the “wild mushrooms” on your pizza were probably picked from a block of inoculated wood chips in a dank warehouse.
Whew…that felt good to share…Because I think it is one of the great misrepresentations in the food business.
Wild Mushrooms—truly wild mushrooms—are actually foraged in the woods. They don’t grow in a controlled environment, but rather along the mountain slopes and coastal areas in North America. They grow all over the country, though most wild mushrooms sold in the United States are hand foraged in the Pacific Northwest. The mushroom itself is actually the fruiting body of an organism that lives in the soil and, some speculate, comprises an interconnected mushroom community that spans the globe. Wild mushrooms are said to be incredibly nutritious and protein dense.
The below list of mushrooms are actually wild. And, though some companies have started growing morels in a warehouse, I guarantee you that if an item in our store says “wild” that it has actually been collected from the wilds. All of our wild mushrooms are foraged in Washington and Oregon:
Does the wild vs. cultivated distinction matter? I think so. Otherwise, food marketers wouldn’t bother misrepresenting cultivated species. Wild mushrooms are a wild food that grows exactly in the place where conditions for it to grow are ideal. To me, it means that it certainly didn’t grow with the help of any funky pesticides, but that it also probably grew to be extremely nutritious…and most definitely it grew to be exceptionally flavorful.
UPDATE: After sending out a press release about wild mushrooms, Mark Bittman responded to us that we were incorrectly using the word “game” to describe our exotic meats. Since all of our meats except wild boar are raised on a farm or a ranch, they aren’t technically “game”. Though most of our customers think of these meats as game meats, the word “game” actually refers to a hunted animal. We’re working on fixing the language throughout our site. Thanks, Mark, for busting a myth that we were buying into.
Please do let us know if you discover any other incorrect things in our web store.