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The History of Portobello Mushrooms



Why is it called portobello?

How is it spelled ? Portabella , or Portobella ….from what I understand there is no “right” spelling. Why would that be? Because it is a fabricated name for a cull that was either tossed or the mushroom pickers took home cause they couldn't sell. Same with a baby Portabella which is called a Crimini mushroom or sometimes I have seen them called Baby Bella. They are the same one is young the other mature. The name Portobello is from unknown origins but has many fun stories. Literally the name means beautiful door. However some think it is named for a road in London England that sells fancy things. Some think it was named after a city in Panama , or there was a TV show once called Portobello.

Strange (mushroom) bedfellows ..

First off , the Portobello is a the same strain as what we would call the common mushroom, a strain called “Agaricus bisporus”. This is important because the strain is very delicate. When it was isolated and they figured out how to cultivate it and develop a mushroom farm, they found that it could easily be mutated. So mushroom farms are like hospitals in that you have to keep very clean and wear gear that keeps you from spreading spores that may alter the strain of what we call …the common mushroom or white mushroom.

How to grow a Portobello Mushroom

Although civilizations around the world figured out how to grow mushrooms The earliest description of the commercial cultivation of Agaricus bisporus was made by French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1707. The problem was that when they transplanted the mushroom, it would often get infected.

In 1893, sterilized, or pure culture, spawn was discovered and produced by the Pasteur Institute in Paris , and this assured that you could grow a consistent good white mushroom.

The original mushroom Agaricus bisporus was brown like a crimini or portobello but in 1926 a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer discovered this strain that was bright white.
Just as white bread was preferred back then so this mushroom became immediately popular. The brown mushrooms didn't sell so those nasty crimini and portabella were considered culls and tossed or taken home by the growers.

Then in 1980 or so when the Whole Foods, Natural foods became popular then some ingenious marketer discovered that there was now a market for these darker of the species and maybe we could up the price ! Wade Whitfield of the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group in Roseville , Calif. "This thing has gone from nearly zero in 1993 to a predicted 30 million pounds this year.


Some ideas for cooking with Portobello Mushrooms

Cook them just like a steak either in a pan or grill with some olive oil and your choice of seasning.
Courtesy of Roy Denman

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Strudel

Portobello Pizza
add favorite sauce and toppings and bake as you would a pizza

Portobello Mushroom Burger




The Kitchen Sauce ......Portobello Pizza link

Mushroom Rings, or "Fairy Rings"

Agicus Bosporus


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Last updated August 29, 2011