Pleurotus ostreatus group

Oyster Mushroom

Order Agaricales, Family Pleurotaceae 

CAP WHITE TO BROWN, OYSTER-SHAPED, IN CLUSTERS

Cap: 4-30 cm wide; oyster or fan-shaped; cap edge incurved then wavy to lobed; moist, smooth; white, gray, gray-brown, tan, or brown

GILLS WHITE TO YELLOWISH

Gills: run down stalk (if short stalk present); thick; white then yellowish

STALK ABSENT OR SHORT, LATERAL

Stalk absent or short and off-center, solid, hairy at base, white

SPORE PRINT WHITE TO PALE LILAC

Spores 8-12 x 3.5-4.5 µm, elliptical, smooth, thin-walled, no pore

IN SHELVING CLUSTERS ON WOOD

EDIBLE, CHOICE

Lookalikes:

Phyllotopsis nidulans –orange cap, strong disagreeable odor and taste

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO KNOW....

There are two places in the city to find oyster mushrooms. The first is gourmet markets, which carry them fresh all year. But, they're really not worth their high price, and it's illegal to pick them from the vegetable rack, put them in your collecting basket, and leave the store without paying.

The second place to find them is growing wild on dead stumps and logs in the spring, especially along river beds. This is a far better option. Though you won't get free samples of soy bean "bacon" while you're looking for oysters along the Platte—like you might at a gourmet market—you'll be happier at the end of the day, even if you don't find any mushrooms. And if you do, they will probably taste better than the store variety. We think the oysters that grow on elm stumps are great eating, while the ones on cottonwood and Aspen—and in the market—are more bland, but still good. In any case, the youngest specimens are best tasting and most tender.

If you ask city mushroom hunters about the oyster, you hear what mushroom hunter Ellen Jacobson calls "my stump" stories. In Ellen's case, she found a couple stumps bearing oysters near her home and she thought to herself, "I'll encourage this." So she picked off some of the bark, shaded and watered them—and the next year they produced 20 lbs. of mushrooms! But caring for the stumps turned out to be a constant battle. Dogs urinated on them. Not-so-neighborly neighbors kicked them across the street. But so far, the stumps are still there and the mushrooms keep coming back.

Oysters arouse the mushroom haters. One compulsive neighbor of Karen Adams could not tolerate the sight of gentle tan oysters growing from his back-yard stump. Karen told him that the mushrooms were helping decompose the dead wood. She also picked his mushrooms and prepared for him a delicious oyster saute with sour cream and nutmeg. But he wasn't impressed and covered his stump with asphalt! (Some oyster lovers avoid neighborhood mycophobia by taking oyster logs to their back yards and caring for them there.)

If you decide to go on an oyster mushroom hunt in the city, don't tell strangers you're looking for "oysters." They'll think you're crazy. Or, if you’re in the West, they'll think you're looking for Rocky Mountain oysters, which conjure an image of a far less peaceful hunting experience.

PENELOPE'S PANTRY

This dish adds élan to what would otherwise be a dull luncheon. The filling is easy to make and stores in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, so it can be made ahead. Any mushroom can be used but my favorite in this recipe is the oyster mushroom. It possesses a flavor which some folks describe as oyster-like, but it's not fishy. In this recipe, the mushroom pervades the cream sauce and the flavors marry into an exquisite and memorable offering. Use crepes, puff pastry, croissants, or brioche to hold the filling.

Oysters in Bed

The bed:

16 prepared crepes, or puff pastries,

or 8 croissants or brioche rolls

Oyster Mushroom Sauce

2 c thinly sliced raw oyster mushrooms
3 T butter
½ c butter
½ c flour

¼ c mushroom powder, if mushroom liquor is not used in filling

2 c stock (chicken or vegetable)

3 c light cream
¼ c sherry
¼ t ground rosemary
1 t ground nutmeg
dash, white pepper
kosher salt to taste

In a large saucepan, sauté the sliced mushrooms in 3 Tablespoons butter until cooked. With a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and set aside.

Now melt the rest of the butter in the saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook until you have a thick paste. Do not let the roux burn. Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring until well blended. (Stir in the mushroom powder now if you are using it.) Bring the stock to a slow boil, add the cooked mushrooms and the seasonings. Simmer for five minutes then add the sherry and cream. Adjust seasonings and set aside.

Filling

2 t Butter

2 c fresh, clean oyster mushrooms

¼ c water or mushroom liquor

2 c cooked brown rice

1 c cooked wild rice

1/8 t ground rosemary

½ t ground nutmeg

½ t kosher salt

In a 1-1/2 quart bowl, mix the grains and spices, set aside. Slice the mushrooms into 2" x ½" pieces and saute them in the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan until partially cooked. Now put the rice mixture on top of the cooking mushrooms. Pour 1/4 cup water over the rice and mushrooms. Pour 1/4 cup water over the rice and mushrooms, cover, and continue cooking until the water is evaporated. Remove from the heat and mix in enough of the Oyster Mushroom Sauce (above) to moisten slightly. Stuff each crepe or pastry shell with 1/3 - ½ cup filling and top with sauce. Makes eight dinner servings or 16 lunches.

** This recipe can easily be halved. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week and reheats well in the microwave on low heat. I always make enough for several meals.

From stump to frying pan to pizza:

oysters on stump

Pleurotus on stump

pizza with oyster mushrooms


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