Main ‘goal’ of storing mushrooms to ‘keep them safe’ from slime

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Though they are technically fungi, mushrooms are classed as vegetables and like most, will perish very quickly if stored incorrectly. While most people put them straight into the fridge, a chef has explained that you need to do more in order to keep them fresh. They revealed that both the packaging and their location in the fridge can are both crucial to get right in order to make them last as long as possible.

How to store mushrooms

Loved for their unique texture and meaty, umami flavour, mushrooms work well in dishes from a range of cuisines. But as a staple ingredient in most kitchens, it can be disappointing to find that they have turned slimy before you get around to using them.

Mushrooms have a porous texture, meaning they soak up water like a sponge. Coupled with their staggeringly high water content of around 80-90 percent, it is important to balance the moisture levels before storing them at home.

Richard LaMarita, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education said: “Because of this, mushrooms need to be kept dry in order to stay firm and fresh.

“The goal of mushroom storage, then, is to prevent them from releasing water and pulling moisture from the air.”

He explained that, unlike most other vegetables, it is essential to avoid washing mushrooms before storing them, adding that doing so “will shorten their shelf life”.

This applies to all “common” varieties such as white button and shiitake, as well as more refined types such as chanterelle mushrooms.

According to Traci Weintraub, chef and founder of Gracefully Fed, storing this edible fungus is as simple as placing whole, unwashed mushrooms in a brown paper bag.

The bag should be folded over at the top to seal it up and prevent airborne moisture from being absorbed. Traci added: “The paper bag will absorb any moisture, keeping your mushrooms safe.”

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If you don’t have a brown paper bag, a paper towel and a bowl will provide similar conditions. To use this method, wrap them in a paper towel and place them in a bowl to store in the fridge.

Just like the bag, the paper towel will absorb moisture, which in turn, keeps both loose and pre-packaged mushrooms fresh.

Richard added: “If your mushrooms came in a sealed plastic container, take them out and store them using one of the aforementioned methods.

“This is especially important if the plastic wrap has no holes, which can trap moisture and speed up spoilage.”

Where to store mushrooms in the fridge

No matter how you choose to store this popular fungus, it won’t be effective if you place the bag or bowl in the wrong part of your fridge.

Due to their sponge-like texture and ethylene-sensitive structure, mushrooms should be kept away from pungent foods as they will absorb the odour.

Traci added: “Additionally while storing mushrooms in a paper bag will prolong their shelf-life, be sure to use the mushrooms within a week of purchase.”

The exception is if you’ve already sliced the mushrooms; in which case you can store them in an air-tight container in the fridge and use them within three days.

If you are unable to use mushrooms up in time, it is possible to freeze them, though this will only work if they are fresh at the time of freezing.

Before storing them, always cook the mushrooms to help preserve their quality and flavour when frozen. To do this, lightly sauté them in butter until they are just cooked, or steam them whole for five minutes.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, lemon juice is incredibly effective for preserving the colour as well as the flavour of defrosted mushrooms. 

To do this, Traci recommended dipping the fungus in a solution made up of one pint of water and one teaspoon of lemon juice before cooking. Once they are cooked and cooled, place them in a freezer-safe bag, where they can be frozen for up to one year.

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