We’ve all been there. You walk into the mushroom section of your grocery store, partially overwhelmed, partially ecstatic about the selection of alien-like fungi staring back at you. Ohhh, the options! How do you choose? Maybe your recipe calls for a specific brand of mushroom (fewf! Indecisive panic avoided). Or, maybe not. You’re tired of the basic old button mushroom, so you do something crazy and reach for one of its alien-esque neighbors. What the heck is it? What makes it taste unique from the others? How do you cook it? Guess no more. In honor of this month’s #veggieofthemonth, we’re challenging you to go out of your comfort zone (and splurge a little, ‘cause you’re worth it) and try cooking these 5 exotic mushrooms.

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1) Morels

It might look like a brain. Or a honeycomb. Or whatever other holey concoction your imagination can dream up - be we promise, it’s a mushroom. And it’s delicious. These special occasion ‘shrooms aren’t mass farmed, but hand-picked from their natural environment, due to the unique environmental conditions they require to sprout. The nutty and rich earthy flavor combined with the meaty consistency make these special ‘shrooms totally worth the splurge! Because their flavor is so special, we recommend cooking them as simply as possible - pan fried with a light coating of La Española Classic Olive Oil

Try this recipe by Serious Eats (replace vegetable/canola oil for olive oil for healthier version)

2) Hen of the Woods

It sounds like a character straight out of a fairytale. Grown at the base of oak trees often found deep in the wilderness, it’s no wonder! This magical mushroom, also known as “maitake” in Japanese (meaning “dancing mushrooms”) are rich, deep, complex and oaky in flavor. Their firm consistency, big size and bold taste make them a fabulous addition to soups, turning an ordinary soup to ‘shoomxtroadinary. 

Try this recipe by Pray Cook Blog.

3) Chanterelles

They’re known as the golden mushroom. These yellow hued beauties have a floral, fragrant, peppery taste perfect as a simple yet simply divine side dish. One of the characteristics that make these golden ‘shrooms unique (besides their color!) is how much moisture they hold. When throwing them on the flame in a dry pan, they release their own liquid. We recommend cooking them dry first, then adding your flavoring after -  try some high quality olive oil, fresh parsley or thyme, and roasted garlic. 

Try this recipe by No Recipe Required.

4) Black trumpet

Why in the world are they called black trumpets? You guessed it… ‘cause they look like little black trumpets! They don’t make music, but they do make your taste buds dance. With a rich, smoky, earthy taste, these little guys are small, delicate and feel silky smooth like suede. Try throwing them in a risotto for a decadent, exotic rendition of the Italian classic. 

Try this recipe by Theasty.

5) French Horn mushroom

Since we’re on the theme of musical mushrooms, why stop with one! Also called a King Trumpet mushroom, they are spotted by their thick, meaty white stem and brown top. When you think of meaty mushrooms, probably the first thing that comes to mind is a portobello. As much as we all love Portobellos, we challenge you to mix it up next time with this sturdy, hearty alternative. Perfect for vegetarians as a meat substitute, we love using its thick stem in stir fries and soups. 

Try this recipe by Epicurious.

So, where do you find these exotic mushrooms? First, check out your local grocery store - you’ll be surprised at how many more you’ll recognize! If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, your next best bet is to look in a high-end food store, specialty produce store, or farmers’ market. If all else fails, you can always find and order them online. If you find a dry version instead of fresh, go for it - they add just as much flavor to a dish. Just plump them up in some hot water first!

Have you tried any of these exotic mushrooms? Which will you experiment with this month?