Perhaps I should explain. Towards the end of the summer, Jeff and I got some water in the basement after a particularly heavy rain. Neither one of us realized just how extensive the damage was—until the weekend before last. We were getting ready to have some new furniture delivered and decided we needed to reconfigure the basement. That was when we discovered that the bottoms of, oh, nearly ALL of the cardboard boxes we’d stored in our basement, filled with blankets and china and Christmas decorations, had gotten wet. Some then proceeded to sprout mold. Black, icky mold.
Needless to say, we’ve been cleaning like demons ever since! We now have a supercharged dehumidifier, a powerful new sump pump—and an entire garage full of what used to be our much-loved stuff, mummified in Husky trash bags, ready to go out to the curb. In fact, pretty much anything that can’t be bleached has been trashed. (I’m more than a little freaked about anything that has the potential to make me sick.)
We’ve been meaning to pare down, mind you, but this was brutal.
Anyhow, given my zero-tolerance approach to anything resembling mold in the basement, as you may have guessed, I’m also a teensy bit obsessive when it comes to food safety. (Made all the more so by the super-intense emphasis on hygiene in my food service lab this semester!) And one of the things that’s always gotten me in the kitchen is that some recipes say to simply wipe the dirt off of fresh mushrooms. Now, I have an idea of the kind of stuff that mushrooms like to grow on, so you can bet your buttons (heh) that I wash and scrub mushrooms regardless.
I know, I know! If mushrooms are rinsed, they absorb water like sponges and end up flabby and squishy instead of firm and chewy. (So they say, anyway…)
But when I dump a container of fresh mushrooms into my colander, I can see the chunks of dirt clinging to them. So, as a world-class worrier, I dutifully rinse and scrub, figuring that eating waterlogged mushrooms is better than catching some sort of unholy bacteria from the rotting whatever-it-is that mushrooms grow on.
To wash or wipe?
Well, if a Q-and-A in The New York Times is to be believed, my wash n’ scrub method might be overkill. Apparently, according to Dr. Kathie Hodge of Cornell University, commercial mushrooms grow in a medium that is “basically compost.” What’s more, this compost is typically heat-treated to kill many of the organisms that would otherwise make themselves at home in it. Thus “mushroom dirt” doesn’t appear to pose much of a safety risk.
So while there’s an ick factor to dirty mushrooms from the grocery store, it seems likely that you don’t need to worry about getting your favorite fungus meticulously clean.
However, for those of you who will be scrubbing your mushrooms regardless (e.g. yours truly), there’s another myth that needs busting. As it turns out, mushrooms actually soak up very little water when washed. (At least so says The Kitchn.) Mushroom washers of the world, you are now officially vindicated. 🙂
So whether you wash or wipe, your mushrooms will probably turn out fine. Fingers crossed that I can say the same for my basement very soon—wish me luck!