The White Imposter

I have no great opinion of the common White Button Mushroom. People eat them worldwide, and many people claim to like them. But many true mushroom lovers consider them to be merely a pale imitation of real mushrooms. And so they are.

Early in the 1900s, the Brown Button mushroom was the most commonly cultivated mushroom. It was the easiest to grow, and was commercially cultivated more than any other for that reason. Once in a while, the Brown Button would throw a white mutant. Someone thought that white one was appealing, and decided to propagate it intentionally. It looked so clean and neat next to that sad brown thing.

Within 20 years, it had completely upstaged the Brown Button, and was the leading commercially cultivated mushroom. It is actually a little more difficult to cultivate, is a tad more prone to contamination and disease. The trusting public, with the belief that a mushroom is a mushroom, bought the pretty one over the plain cousin, so the farmers cultivated it with abandon. Food was going through its own little industrial revolution at the time, and this is when white flour took the lead over brown flour, and when margarine replaced butter. Food was judged by appearance more than nutrition, because the public understood appearance more than they understood nutrition.

Early on, some other Agaricus strains were also grown - which were naturally white. A. bitorquis is one of them. It was abandoned as a commercial mushroom though because the white mutant was more "durable". And durability is a desirable commercial characteristic, even if it is NOT a desirable culinary characteristic.

If the White Button were equal in nutrition and health benefits to either the Brown Button or the naturally white buttons, this would be no tragedy. But alas, it is not. So the harmless little mutant becomes the evil villain in our story – through no fault of its own, to be sure, just through ignorance and avarice.

The White Button is a mutant. It is a Brown Button mushroom – whole, intact, and healthy – which has mutated into something LESS than the Brown Button. Now, there are a LOT of white mushrooms – and on the whole, they tend to ALL be a little less nutritious than the colored mushrooms. There are, in fact, a number of other Agaricus mushrooms which are white, nearly identical to the White Button (though they vary widely in size), just as easily cultivated, and which are ALL more nutritious and more useful than the White Button – because they developed that way naturally, while the White Button was a mutant that was then propagated, and further developed for rapid propagation. It lost a great deal in the changes. It lost elements which the other white mushrooms still possess. It is unfortunate that it was decided to mass propagate the mutant, instead of deciding to propagate one of the naturally white mushrooms.

When other scientists finally got around to studying the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, the White Imposter was the chosen entity. It was then noised abroad that mushrooms were really not terribly nourishing, so you'd better not bother eating them – they were not worth the effort it took to prepare and chew them. All mushrooms were tarred with the little white brush.

The little white mutant made its way into every common food – representing mushrooms collectively in cans, trays, and pouches. All but the priciest restaurants served nothing but the little white imposter. Entire generations little knew that any other edible mushroom existed.

Mushrooms have a reasonable amount of protein precursors (classed as plant type proteins, which are not as complete as animal proteins, but which the human body can USUALLY complete) and several B vitamins. They are generally easily digestible, so people with some types of protein intolerances can still digest mushrooms.

The particular balance of nutrients provides a range of nutritional benefits, pretty much across the health spectrum – primarily because mushrooms do not contain elements which help a specific bodily system, rather, they contain elements which help with regulation of the hormonal and chemical balance within the body. This means that they help with a wide variety of issues, including blood pressure, heart and lung function, kidney function, pancreas and digestive function, musculoskeletal health, endocrine health, and more.

Mushrooms are indeed worth the calories expended to prepare and chew them! They are highly nutritious, and very beneficial.

The little white shade though, contains only a portion of these benefits. It should not be left to represent mushrooms in the culinary and nutritional realm, because it is in no way representative of mushrooms as a whole.

The tide does seem to be turning some – at least among the educated and health conscious of the world. Brown mushrooms have made a comeback under the name of Portobello, and Crimini. Wider varieties of mushrooms are now found in many grocery stores, and on the menus in even the less exclusive eating establishments. Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms are available many places, and a few stores even have other varieties such as Enoki or Bunashimeji.

We would like to see the return of the Brown Button mushroom as the common standard. After all, once cooked, you really can't tell the difference (they both turn to gray or black goo), but they are more nutritious. We would like to see people choose the earthy goodness of natural nutrition over the pathetic imitation of “pretty” food, which, like the empty headed PhotoShopped model, is all false appearance with no substance.

As far as we are concerned, the White Button Mushroom should just go away. It should disappear into obscurity and not return. It won't be missed by anyone with either taste, or sense.

As such, you won't even find a listing on any of our sites for the White Button (White Agaricus Bisporus). However, we do have spawn for Old Fashioned Portobello, and many other far more interesting and nutritious mushrooms.


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