Wild Food Wednesday: Oyster Mushrooms

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!

Here’s a great guide to safe harvesting of mushrooms at LifeHacker – better safe than sorry!

Oyster Mushroom

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.

Wild Vegan CookbookWildman Steve Brill is an incredible resource for harvesting and cooking wild foods, including mushrooms. He has several oyster mushroom recipes in his Wild Vegan Cookbook and has graciously allowed us to reprint this recipe for a vegan Oyster Newburg! Click the cookbook for ordering info and definitely check out his new Wild Edibles app for iOS or Droid.

Mushrooms

1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil
1/4 cup corn oil
12 cups oyster mushrooms or other mushrooms, sliced

The Sauce

1 cup water
1/2 cup black locust blossom wine or sherry
2/3 cup silken tofu, drained
1/4 cup flaxseed oil or corn oil
6 tbs. lecithin granules
2 tbs. kudzu or arrowroot
2 tsp. Vege-sal or 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. liquid stevia or 2 tbs. honey, barley malt, or rice syrup
1/4 tsp. cayenne hot pepper, or to taste

Preparation

  1. Sauté the mushrooms in the canola and corn oil 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, purée the sauce ingredients in a blender.
  3. Stir the sauce into the mushrooms and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring often.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

Serve on toast or with pasta.

Serves 6. Preparation Time: 30 minutes