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|Food Buzz: History of Mushrooms|
Caesar’s mushrooms are medium to large in size and are egg-shaped when young expanding out to a thick cylindrical stem with a rounded, convex cap averaging 6-15 centimeters in diameter when mature. The smooth, free of warts, deep orange-red cap is firm and somewhat elastic, holding its shape when cut and has light striations around the edges. When the cap is fully expanded, there may be some slight tears and splits due to moisture loss. The underbelly of the cap is lined with pale yellow gills that are free and not attached to the stem. The stipe or stem averages 8-15 centimeters in length, 2-4 centimeters in diameter, and is yellow-ivory with a piece of tissue known as a volva surrounding the bottom of the stem. Caesar’s mushrooms are tender, fragrant, and mild in flavor with notes of hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Caesar’s mushrooms are available in the early summer through fall.
Caesar’s mushrooms, botanically classified as Amanita caesarea, are a beloved European variety named after the title given to the Roman emperors and are members of the Amanitaceae family. Caesar’s mushrooms have been used in Italy for more than 2000 years and are most prized for when they are in their young, egg-shaped form, also earning them the nickname Ovoli. Growing directly on the ground and not on dead wood in the forest, Caesar’s mushrooms are favored for their nutty taste and delicate texture. They also have two American cousins, Amanita hemibapha and Amanita jacksonii that are so similar in appearance to the Caesar that they can only be identified under a microscope. Caution should be taken when foraging for Caesar’s mushrooms as the genus Amanita is known for its poisonous members, of which include both hallucinogenic and toxic mushrooms.
Caesar’s mushrooms contain copper, zinc, B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, and some potassium.
Caesar’s mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as grilling, roasting, sautéing, and boiling. In Italy, Caesar’s mushrooms are consumed raw when freshly harvested, rolled in salt and lemon juice, or are thinly sliced, spread out on a platter, and dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, and parsley. They can also be sliced in salads, lightly sautéed as a side dish, grilled with other vegetables, or served with roasted garlic on toasted thick-cut bread drizzled with oil. Caesar’s mushrooms pair well with lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, celery, red peppers, spinach and other leafy greens, and parmesan cheese. These mushrooms have a short shelf life and are recommended to be consumed immediately after purchase.
Legend has it that Agrippina, the wife of Emperor Claudius in Italy, poisoned the emperor with Amanita phalloides mushrooms concealed as Caesar’s mushrooms in a plot to make her son Nero the new emperor. In modern day, the mushroom is still loved by many Italians, but it is also favored in select regions of South America. In Honduras, there is a festival known as the Festival del Choro y Vino that celebrates Caesar’s mushrooms and wine.
Caesar’s mushrooms are native to southern Europe and have been found growing wild since ancient times. Commonly found in the oak and chestnut woods in Italy and the chestnut and pinewoods of northern Spain, Caesar’s mushrooms were spread to northern Europe and Asia and were first officially named in 1772 by Giovanni Antonio Scopoli. In 1801 it was renamed to the new genus Amanita, and today Caesar’s mushrooms can be found at local markets in Europe, Asia, northern Africa, Mexico, and select regions in South America.
Recipes that include Caesar's Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.