Mushrooms belong to their own scientific kingdom, Fungi, separate from the plant and animal kingdoms. Like plants, mushrooms live in the ground, but they are unable to photosynthesise and cannot gain energy from the sun. Like animals, mushrooms take nutrients from other organisms.
Of the thousands of mushroom species in existence, only a few are suitable for eating. This is why you have to be a mushroom expert to forage for them and they must be checked by a mycologist before eating. In Italy, local health services will check foraged mushrooms free of charge.
The fruit of the mushroom, the sporocarp, is the external part of the mushroom which is harvested and eaten. Underground, mushrooms have a sort of root system known as mycelium (the small filaments which stem from the stipe). The fruit is formed of a cap, under which you can find the gills, and the stipe or stem.
To store and use mushrooms correctly, they must be cleaned properly. Carefully brush all the soil off each mushroom. You can also use a knife to scrape the stem, if it is very thick. Then, wipe them with a clean damp cotton cloth or a damp paper towel. Fresh mushrooms should be eaten as soon as possible.
The best way to store dried mushrooms is at a low temperature or in a dry place, for example in your freezer, inside a paper bag or in a standard freezer bag. Stored like this, you can fully preserve the taste, colour and aroma of your mushrooms.