The last time we discussed the word portobello ‘mature cremino mushroom,’ the etymology was unknown despite a plethora of suggestions. Well, it may still not be exactly known, but at least we have an authoritative hypothesis; MMcM of the brand-new blog Polyglot Vegetarian (“Grazing through the world of words”) had the excellent idea of looking for the word in the latest update to the OED, and (in the words of his latest post) “sure enough, they’ve got it”:
Brit. /ˌpɔ:təˈbɛləʊ/, U.S. /ˌpɔrdəˈbɛloʊ/ Forms: 19- portabella, 19- portabello, 19- portobello. [Perh. alteration of Italian pratarolo meadow mushroom.]
More fully portobello mushroom. A large brown variety of the common edible mushroom, having an open flat cap and a distinctive musky smell.
1990 Doylestown (Pennsylvania) Intelligencer 28 Oct. C12/3 Out of darkness now emerge the cream-colored and fuller flavoured crimani.. the wild tasting portobello and the soft-for-soup oyster mushroom. 1998 Scotl. on Sunday (Nexis) 26 July 32 Before grilling, stuff meaty Portabello mushrooms with oil-soaked crumbs and grated Parmesan or crumbled goat’s cheese. 2004 Phytochemistry 65 671/2 Tyrosinase, laccase, and peroxidase were detected in portabella mushrooms, a brown strain of Agaricus bisporus.
He adds “I am amazed that the earliest quotation they could come up with is from 1990,” and so am I. I welcome the new addition to the blogosphere, and am encouraged by his scrupulous reproduction of the OED’s formatting—too many people just paste in the text and ignore the itals and bolds; I recommend his earlier posts on vegan, okra, and burek.