Mushrooms occupy a strange place in our palates. Neither part of the plant or the animal kingdom, they are an oft-feared addition to any meal. Yet the little decomposers beneath our feet have tremendous health benefits for our bodies and for our planet. In the spirit of reviving the good name of mushrooms everywhere, Dear Food presents an in-depth look at the good, the bad, and the just plain weird of the mushroom world.
Latin name: the genus Pleurotus
Other names: tree oyster, tree mushroom
Just the other day, I was walking to the supermarket and came across a recently-felled log in somebody’s front yard that had a big ol’ growth of oyster mushrooms on the side of it. As one of the perks of eating mushrooms is most people don’t know what they have right in their front lawn, I didn’t think the owners of the log would mind if I got rid of the unsightly blemishes for them.
Er… if I want to keep that up, maybe I should stop writing a column about mushrooms…
Oyster mushrooms actually cover a few different species of mushrooms none of which, thankfully, are poisonous so nobody has to care that much. The most commonly cultivated varieties (as far as I know) are the blue oysters, which look the same as the above picture but with blue caps instead of a gold-ish color. Another common one is the white tree mushroom which is, predictably, white. The most flashy ones are the golden oysters and the pink oysters which are brilliant shades of yellow and, uh, pink respectively. The names basically say it all.
In general, oysters taste slightly bitter with a rubbery consistency, which sounds gross but they really are quite good. If they have stems, I wouldn’t recommend eating them–they’re very tough. Although, I have read that some species have more tender stems.
They are available in most stores these days. I would highly recommend picking some up and trying them if you haven’t already. Though I can’t bring myself to buy them on a regular basis because money.
They are also super easy to cultivate. All you need is some cardboard, some stems, and some used coffee grounds. More on that next week!