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White/button mushroom = portobello?

soniabegonia Jun 24, 2009 12:15 PM

I always thought they were different varieties but this says portobellos are mature white mushrooms. Is this true? Any scientists out there?


  1. kchurchill5 Jun 25, 2009 01:26 PM

    Agaricus bisporus—known variously as the common mushroom, button mushroom, white mushroom, table mushroom, portobello mushroom, crimini mushroom, Swiss Brown mushrooms, also known as Cremini, Italian Brown, Italian mushroom, Roman Brown mushrooms, or cultivated mushroom —is an edible basidiomycete mushroom native to grasslands in Europe and North America. A. bisporus is cultivated in more than 70 countries.[1]

    The common mushroom has a complicated taxonomic history. It was first described in 1884 as a variety (var. hortensis) of Agaricus campestris.[citation needed] Danish mycologist Jakob Emanuel Lange later reviewed a cultivar specimen, and dubbed it Psalliota hortensis var. bispora in 1926. The epithet bispora distinguished the two-spored basidia from four-spored varieties). In 1938, Mõller and Schäffer promoted the variety to species status, calling it Psalliota bispora.[citation needed] Emil J. Imbach renamed imparted the species' current scientific name, Agaricus bisporus, after the genus Psalliota was renamed to Agaricus in 1946.[1]

    Among English speakers, Agaricus bisporus is known by many names. A young specimen with a closed cap and either pale white or light brown flesh is known as a button mushroom or white mushroom. When the flesh darkens, the immature mushroom is variously known as a crimini mushroom, baby portobello, baby bella, mini bella, portabellini, Roman mushroom, Italian mushroom, or brown mushroom. At this stage of maturation, the cap may also begin to open slightly. In maturity, it is called a portobello (frequently misspelled as portabella, portabello, or portobella). The French name is champignon de Paris ("Paris mushroom").

    Both spellings of portabella and portobello are used. The Mushroom Council, however, uses the two "a" version. [2] [3]

    Portobello - pronounced [por-toh-BEHL-loh]
    The portobello also called portabella is really simply a brown crimini mushroom in disguise. Evidently the usage of the two words "portobello vs. portabella" is simply an issue of a marketing brand. Once the little brown crimini grows up to be about 4" - 6" in diameter he is deemed to be a portobello.

    A brown crimini mushroom is a juvenile portobello. There as many theories on the heritage of the name as there were for why is a Flatiron steak called a Flatiron steak! We referred to Elizabeth Schneider's vegetable bible "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" for some truth and learned that the only information available is theory. It seems that there are as many "origins" as there are experts to quote them. Here are some of the main ones:
    Chipotle Dot Named after Portobello Road in London which has many high end antique shops and other fashionable establishments.
    Chipotle Dot Named after a T.V. show called Portobello
    Chipotle Dot The portobello in Northern Italy is called "cappellone" which means "big hat".

    2 Replies
    1. re: kchurchill5
      KTinNYC Jun 25, 2009 01:41 PM

      If you are going to cite almost entire articles from wikipedia and gourmetsleuth you should credit your sources or better yet provide links.


      1. re: KTinNYC
        kchurchill5 Jun 25, 2009 01:53 PM

        I can't, when I try to add the link it won't. I get this problem every know and then. I would love to do that but can't. I goes blank and then I get booted off and the page shuts down.

        I can do it at times and then other times it doesn't work. I have had my computer looked at and it is fine. This is the only site I have this problem with. I also can't expand the posts 99% of the time and searching is non existent. I have reported the problems.

        I would of linked if I could of.

    2. kchurchill5 Jun 25, 2009 01:17 PM

      NO, mature crimini,

      1. Scargod Jun 24, 2009 08:48 PM

        Very possibly. A produce guy told me that was so, a few weeks back; really. Then, produce people are like mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed shit. How would they know?
        From my mushroom collecting and reading it is obvious that as a mushroom matures it changes shape and color. Not unusual at all for light colored mushrooms to darken as they grow and mature.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Scargod
          danieljdwyer Jun 25, 2009 05:02 AM

          If that is the case, how come I can find "baby bellas", as stores around here call them, that are smaller than your average white mushroom, and I can find white mushrooms that are just about as large as your average portobello? Maybe they just hit puberty at different sizes?

          1. re: danieljdwyer
            MikeG Jun 25, 2009 06:33 AM

            I don't think many mushrooms change dramatically once the fruiting bodies start to mature but in any event, my usual grocer has huge bins of both side by side, every day of the year. You see white buttons and cremini side by side, in a full range of sizes, including white "buttons" as large as small portobellos/portabellas. Creminis and portobellos are more or less the same tan/brown color, white, are, even when huge, glaringly white by comparison. Portabellas (apparently the current preferred trade name) get darker and sort of scaly, but they don't change all that much; huge whites the size of small portabellas are as smooth and white as the smallest.

            But just because they look and taste a little different, doesn't mean they are what scientists call different "species."

            1. re: MikeG
              danieljdwyer Jun 25, 2009 01:28 PM

              So would you say it's accurate to call them different cultivars of Agaricus bisporus? That was my initial thought about, but I am unsure if they qualify as cultivars.

              1. re: danieljdwyer
                MikeG Jun 25, 2009 06:57 PM

                I've never been sure whether "cultivar" is even a proper term in (formal) botanical nomenclature and/or how it differs from "variety" and "form." Usually, taxonomists are in their own little world and among everyone else, the discussions get very confusing, very quickly with terms like "cultivar", "strain" and "variety" being tossed around more or less as synonyms.

                1. re: MikeG
                  oldunc Aug 14, 2011 06:04 PM

                  Broadly, a cultivar is a form selected by a nurseryman or grower, a variety or form is one selected by nature. Cultivars are reproduced asexually, where as natural varieties and forms are genetically stable and reproduce by seed in most cases.

        2. bagelman01 Jun 24, 2009 06:13 PM

          Sorry for being a stickler, BUT

          NO MUSHROOM IS A PORTOBELLO! Portobello ios a road in London. There are mushrooms correctly known as PORTABELLAS.

          Is is disheartening to see the incorrect name continue to spread.

          9 Replies
          1. re: bagelman01
            c oliver Jun 24, 2009 06:20 PM

            Well, golly, since one of the proposed origins of the word is from the road in London, then where did that darned *o* get replaced with an *a*????? Disheartening? Please.

            1. re: bagelman01
              goodhealthgourmet Jun 24, 2009 06:21 PM

              sorry bagelman, but i'm going to have to call you out on this one. portobello is a perfectly acceptable variant. in fact, it's the *primary* entry in some references (including the Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                MikeG Jun 24, 2009 06:32 PM

                Neither is a traditional word. Rather than being "baby bellas", cremini are the ones with a long-standing name as one cultivar/variety of a commonly cultivated mushroom. When "exotic" foods started becoming big business during the 80s, overgrown cremini started showing up "branded" as portabellas/portobellos. According to the same report repeated ad nauseam on the web, the "a" version was adopted by some sort of "Mushroom Council" but that's its only claim to propriety. For what little it's worth, I seem to remember seeing "portobello" first...

                1. re: MikeG
                  C. Hamster Jun 25, 2009 07:56 AM

                  "Mushroom Council"

                  Heh heh ...

                  1. re: C. Hamster
                    Fritter Jun 29, 2009 02:35 PM

                    Don't chuckle too much. The portobello is just about the slickest marketing pitch there ever was. They really are just over grown crimini's.


                    1. re: Fritter
                      kchurchill5 Jun 30, 2009 07:54 AM

                      Very true, but I still love them. But absolutely right.

                      1. re: kchurchill5
                        Fritter Jun 30, 2009 08:25 AM

                        Yes they are delicious. I like to lightly marinate them with EVOO, Soy, S&P and some fresh garlic and then grill them fin side up so the marinade stays inside as they cook. I only flip them for a few seconds at the end.

                        1. re: Fritter
                          kchurchill5 Jun 30, 2009 09:18 AM

                          I agree, the best. Ever do OJ, sesame and soy. Really tasty. A favorite recipe:

                          I stuff with scallops grilled (with the same marinade, but less time), s/p of course. I grill the scallops, chop and then toss with scallions, sauteed leeks, diced avacado, a little lime juice, panko crumbs and topped with goat cheese and then baked until the cheese melts. Just a few minutes. Amazing and it is dinner. A nice salad and grilled bread and nothing more.

              2. re: bagelman01
                soniabegonia Jun 24, 2009 06:32 PM

                funny, the wikipedia page says "a portobello (frequently misspelled as portabella, portabello, or portobella)." Of course, wikipedia is often wrong...

              3. C. Hamster Jun 24, 2009 02:05 PM

                Cremini mushrooms are baby bellos

                2 Replies
                1. re: C. Hamster
                  c oliver Jun 24, 2009 02:51 PM

                  Oh, goody, I thought I was right!

                  1. re: C. Hamster
                    danhole Jun 25, 2009 01:15 PM

                    My daughter brought some Baby Bellas over to put on the grill and she also thought they were small portabellas. I'll have to let her know what they really are.

                  2. d
                    danieljdwyer Jun 24, 2009 12:51 PM

                    I'm no scientist, but I'd like to think I have a decent understanding of taxonomy and cladistics. So, here goes.
                    No, it's not true. But that doesn't mean what Wikipedia says is incorrect. Agaricus bisporus is a species of mushroom. Button mushrooms and portobellos are both members of this species, but that does no make them the same thing as each other. I believe they are two different cultivars, but I might be wrong. It is possible they are simply two expressions of the same species as it grows under certain controlled conditions. Either way, here is a somewhat appropriate comparison: Broccoli is classified as Brassica oleracea. Kale is classified as Brassica oleracea. Kohlrabi is classified as Brassica oleracea. There are a dozen or so other vegetables that are all this single species. They're not separate subspecies or anything. Genetically they are nearly indistinguishable from one another. But anyone who's ever eaten these plants can tell you that they are very definitely not the same thing as each other. Likewise, cabbage and brussels sprouts both belong to this species, but brussels sprouts are not immature cabbages. They're different expressions of one species, and in this case are classified as separate cultivars.
                    So, basically, they are the same species, but they're not the same thing, and one is not the immature version of the other.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: danieljdwyer
                      soniabegonia Jun 24, 2009 01:11 PM

                      Oy. That's why I'm not a scientist. Thanks for the explanation.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer
                        FerdieLance Aug 14, 2011 05:41 PM

                        First of all, yes, your taxonomy is good. I say this as someone who actually has done mushroom taxonomy.

                        Second, I used to be SURE that crimini and portobellos were not only the same species, but the same variety - a mycologist I know implied this strongly - but now I feel that the only thing to do is to experiment!

                        The question can be settled SCIENTIFICALLY by buying a crimini kit, growing them, picking some, and letting the rest expand their caps. It is also scientifically necessary to eat all of them, to check for taste, possibly in a double blind taste-test with nice portobellos and crimini from the store.

                        While the addition of wine may be a confounding variable, scientifically speaking, "pairs well with a good red" is a much-neglected taxonomic character and should also be considered (if you're buying.)

                      2. c oliver Jun 24, 2009 12:28 PM

                        I thought creminis (little brown ones) were immature portobellos but certain about that.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: c oliver
                          Kelli2006 Jun 24, 2009 10:41 PM

                          You are correct that creminis and portabellos are the same variety at a different stage of maturity.

                          Ive read that the white button and cremini are related but I'm not sure how.

                        2. goodhealthgourmet Jun 24, 2009 12:28 PM

                          they're mature brown Crimini, not white button.

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