Agaricus bisporus is an edible basidiomycete mushroom native to grasslands in Europe and North America. It has two color states while immature—white and brown—both of which have various names. When mature, it is known as portobello mushroom, often shortened to just portobello (also spelled portabello or portabella ). Smaller sized portobello mushrooms may be called portobellini or portabellini.
When immature and white, this mushroom may be known as common mushroom, button mushroom, white mushroom, cultivated mushroom, table mushroom, and champignon mushroom. When immature and brown, this mushroom may be known variously as Swiss brown mushroom, Roman brown mushroom, Italian brown, Italian mushroom, cremini or crimini mushroom, baby bella, brown cap mushroom, or chestnut mushroom.
The common mushroom has a complicated taxonomic history. It was first described by English botanist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke in his 1871 Handbook of British Fungi, as a variety (var. hortensis) of Agaricus campestris. Danish mycologist Jakob Emanuel Lange later reviewed a cultivar specimen, and dubbed it Psalliota hortensis var. bispora in 1926. In 1938, it was promoted to species status and renamed Psalliota bispora. Emil Imbach (1897–1970) imparted the current scientific name of the species, Agaricus bisporus, after the genus Psalliota was renamed to Agaricus in 1946. The specific epithet bispora distinguishes the two-spored basidia from four-spored varieties.
The pileus or cap of the original wild species is a pale grey-brown in color, with broad, flat scales on a paler background and fading toward the margins. It is first hemispherical in shape before flattening out with maturity, and 5–10 centimetres (2–4 inches) in diameter. The narrow, crowded gills are free and initially, pink, then red-brown and finally a dark brown with a whitish edge from the cheilocystidia. The cylindrical stipe is up to 6 cm (2 1⁄3 in) tall by 1–2 cm wide and bears a thick and narrow ring, which may be streaked on the upper side. The firm flesh is white, although stains a pale pinkish-red on bruising. The spore print is dark brown. The spores are oval to round and measure approximately 4.5–5.5 μm × 5–7.5 μm, and the basidia usually two-spored, although two-tetrasporic varieties have been described from the Mojave Desert and the Mediterranean, with predominantly heterothallic and homothallic lifestyles, respectively.
This mushroom is commonly found worldwide in fields and grassy areas following rain, from late spring through to autumn, especially in association with manure. It is widely collected and eaten, even by those who would not normally experiment with mushroom hunting.
The common mushroom could be confused with young specimens of the deadly poisonous destroying angel (Amanita sp.), but the latter may be distinguished by their volva or cup at the base of the mushroom and pure white gills (as opposed to pinkish or brown of A. bisporus). Thus it is always important to clear away debris and examine the base of such similar mushrooms, as well as cutting open young specimens to check the gills. Furthermore, the destroying angel grows in mossy woods and lives symbiotically with spruce.
A more common and less dangerous mistake is to confuse A. bisporus with Agaricus xanthodermus, an inedible mushroom found worldwide in grassy areas. A. xanthodermus has an odor reminiscent of phenol; its flesh turns yellow when bruised. This fungus causes nausea and vomiting in some people.
The poisonous European species Entoloma sinuatum has a passing resemblance as well, but has yellowish gills, turning pink, and it lacks a ring.
The earliest scientific description of the commercial cultivation of A. bisporus was made by French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1707. French agriculturist Olivier de Serres noted that transplanting mushroom mycelia would lead to the propagation of more mushrooms.
Originally, cultivation was unreliable as mushroom growers would watch for good flushes of mushrooms in fields before digging up the mycelium and replanting them in beds of composted manure or inoculating 'bricks' of compressed litter, loam, and manure. Spawn collected this way contained pathogens and crops commonly would be infected or not grow at all. In 1893, sterilized, or pure culture, spawn was discovered and produced by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, for cultivation on composted horse manure.
Today's commercial variety of the common mushroom originally was a light brown color. In 1926, a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer found a clump of common mushrooms with white caps in his mushroom bed. As with the reception of white bread, it was seen as a more attractive food item and became very popular. Similar to the commercial development history of the navel orange and Red Delicious apple, cultures were grown from the mutant individuals, and most of the cream-colored store mushrooms marketed today are products of this 1926 chance natural mutation.
A. bisporus is now cultivated in at least seventy countries throughout the world. Global production in the early 1990s was reported to be more than 1.5 million tons, worth more than US$2 billion.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||93 kJ (22 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1 g|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
In a 100-gram serving, raw white mushrooms provide 93 kilojoules (22 kilocalories) of food energy and are an excellent source (> 19% of the Daily Value, DV) of the B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid (table). Fresh mushrooms are also a good source (10–19% DV) of the dietary mineral phosphorus (table).
Mushrooms contain hydrazine derivatives, including agaritine and gyromitrin, that have been evaluated for carcinogenic activity. Agaritine, a hydrazine, poses no toxicological risk to humans when mushrooms are consumed in typical amounts.
Ventral view of a portobello cultivar with a bisected stipe
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