Written by Phin Upham
The Portobello mushroom is one of the most popular spores used in cooking today, but was it all due to a marketing gimmick? Thanks to a story in the New York Times, the mushrooms rose to popularity all throughout the 80s.
The name Portobello also relates to the town Portobelo of Panama. Though the names are similar, the coincidence ends there. The Portobello mushroom is enjoyed all over the world, but it is believed to be naturally occurring in Italy where it was first cultivated. There is also no specific correct spelling of the name. A simple Google search can confirm this, with variations like portabella and portobella netting an equal amount of hits for the subject.
In 1993, orders for the mushroom were at nearly zero. Within three years, Americans had begun ordering them by the millions. The history of brown mushrooms grown for consumption is strange. The public did prefer white-button spores for a period of time, but the 1960s and 70s movement of “back to Earth” promoted browns again. Still, farmers long considered Portobello mushrooms a scourge on their plant beds.
They would throw the brown spores out, or take them home to their families at the end of the day. It’s hard to tell what kicked off the love of Portobellos, but they have a much meatier flavor than other spores. Although white spores still hold majority market share, portobellos are rising in popularity year over year. Some restaurants have entirely redone their menus to reflect their newfound taste for portobellos.