Wikipedia’s entry for the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) explains that this large, deciduous tree of the beech family was once one of the eastern United States dominant hardwoods before it was nearly wiped out by chestnut blight. Curiously enough, one of the few pockets to survive were some 600 to 800 large trees in northern lower Michigan. Read more
Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the U.S. and that diversity doesn’t stop at the market! Our woods are alive with tasty and nutritious food if you know where to look. In our Wild Food Wednesdays we’ll tip you off to seasonal goodies that you can find around TC and give you a recipe so you can enjoy the meal as much as the hike to find it!
Oysters mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus complex) are an edible and easy to find mushroom that’s in the woods around Traverse City right now! The Michigan Mushroom Hunter’s Club has great information on harvesting oyster mushrooms – here’s a taste:
The delicious oysters can be found in many environments as they are a prime wood recycler. Oysters can be found on dead and dying trees especially hardwoods like poplars (a.k.a. aspen), cottonwoods, elms, box elders, etc. though they also can occur on conifers.
The gills of the oysters are white, branched fanning out toward the cap edge and are very decurrent (running down the stalk). Oysters tend to grow in dense clusters of caps, crowded and overlapping. It is not unusual to find oyster in such quantity that a mushroom hunter ends up measuring her find in pounds. Each cap may resemble an oyster shell or fan but they grow in many shapes. The edges of the caps are often curved down and are fluted. They are smooth, and colored from off-white, to buff brown, to deep bluish grey, to gray brown. The caps range from an inch across to 6 inches though some caps as wide as 12” are not uncommon. The flesh is white, juicy and quite dense. Stalks if present are thick, become woody with age and have gills all the way to their attachment with the tree.
Read on for much more including harvesting tips (we always bring paring knives and baskets). Also check out Tom Volk’s page on Oyster mushrooms for more identification information. If you want to go a little deeper (and maybe live a little longer) check out mushroom evangelist Paul Stamets compilation of apparent health benefits of oyster mushrooms including cholesterol reduction and immune system boosting.
Wondering what to do once you’ve got some? Read on for a great recipe and share your own ideas in the comments or on the eatdrinkTC Facebook.
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