As mushrooms gain popularity, supermarkets are offering much more than basic white and brown varieties.
At family-owned Market of Choice, a group of eight stores based in Eugene, Ore., shoppers can choose from up to 20 kinds of mushrooms during the fall and spring, when local wild mushrooms are plentiful, said Gene Versteeg, produce buyer and merchandiser.
“Our customers are big-time food people,” he said. “They’ll pay $20 a pound for mushrooms.”
Chanterelle, matsutake, lobster and hen of the woods are some of the varieties shoppers like best.
“We fill a bin up in the morning, and by the afternoon it’s empty,” he said.
Market of Choice stores also sell 8-ounce overwrapped cups of whole and sliced white and brown mushrooms. Just about all varieties are available in organic and conventional versions.
During the middle of winter, when fresh wild mushrooms aren’t available, the stores carry dried varieties in clear plastic bins.
Shoppers buy them by the ounce at an average price of $6-10, take them home and rehydrate them in a bowl of water. Market of Choice also carries packaged dried mushrooms priced at $3-5.
Besides the local wild mushrooms, the stores always carry white, brown, crimini, portabella and shiitake mushrooms in a four-foot section with three shelves. The basic kinds are the best sellers because they’re priced lower than the specialties, Versteeg said.
The stores feature mushrooms on ad three to four times a year.
Once a year, Versteeg runs a wild chanterelle ad at an aggressive price of $6.99 per pound compared to a regular price of $13.99.
Mushrooms are consistent sellers year-round at Seattle-based Red Apple Markets, a chain of more than 30 independently owned stores, said Jim Prim, produce manager at the Seattle Promenade location.
The store features a half dozen or more varieties, including crimini, white, brown and oyster mushrooms.
Even the fairly expensive chanterelles are good sellers, he said.
Loose mushrooms sell better than packaged ones.
“People like to pick their own,” Prim said.
Consumers are aware of the health benefits of mushrooms, he said, but flavor is the main selling point.
Chefs sometimes use mushrooms with robust flavors as a spice, Versteeg said. They grate fresh wild truffles and use them to enhance the flavor of pasta dishes, for example.
A quarter-ounce truffle costs $7 or $8, he said, “but that truffle is going to go a long way.”
Shiitakes also are a good flavoring mushroom, he said.
Most shoppers like to select their own mushrooms from bulk bins at Market of Choice. Only 10% to 20% of mushrooms there are packaged.
Versteeg merchandises mushrooms with fresh herbs, “because foodies are into fresh cooking,” he said.
Red Apple shoppers use mushrooms in a number of ways, Prim said, including in stir fries, on burgers and in myriad recipes.
Prim merchandises loose, cut and sliced mushrooms in a 3-foot by 4-foot section. About 30% are packaged.
Plain brown mushrooms and plain white ones are priced the same, but other varieties, like chanterelles and portabellas, are priced separately.
“People don’t pay as much attention to price as quality,” Prim said.