Q. My wife says you aren’t supposed to wash mushrooms with water, but wipe off the dirt with a brush or towel. I don’t think they get clean without a good rinse. Who is right? — Javier, Appleton
A. It’s really uncomfortable for me to get in the middle of a debate between a husband and wife. I’d feel terrible to be responsible for a divorce! So, when it comes to washing or not washing mushrooms, let’s say you’re both right!
Mushrooms are a very wet vegetable, with some sources listing them as high as 93 percent moisture. So if you think about it, they really can’t absorb much more moisture than they already contain. Most professional cooks wash their mushrooms, but they also observe a few cautionary rules in the process. One rule is that they rinse or wash them very quickly with cold water. By rinsing or washing them quickly, they are exposed to water for a very short time and thus will absorb a minimal amount of water, if any at all. Another rule is to only rinse or wash your mushrooms right before you plan to use them. This will help the mushrooms to maintain their freshness as long as possible. Once they are rinsed or washed with water, they will begin to deteriorate rapidly.
The use of a brush or a towel is an acceptable way of cleaning mushrooms, as long as you can remove all the soil that is attached to them. Mushrooms are grown in soil that usually contains a high concentration of manure, so you’ll want to get them cleaned thoroughly. I can’t imagine wanting to have manure as a “secret ingredient!”