Mushroom Log: Ode to Turkey Tails

Turkey Tails. On my deck.

Turkey Tails. On my deck.

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: Travetes versicolor

Other names: Many-Colored Polypore

Spring is upon us, which means that mushroom pickings are scarce in my area. All the little mushrooms are sleeping in the ground until next fall when the temperature cools down and the rain picks up. 

That is, all but the good ol’ Turkey Tails. 

Mushroom Log: Oyster Mushrooms

Oysters courtesy of a.bower

Land… oysters.. ? Courtesy of a.bower

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…

Mushroom Log: Supermarket ‘Shrooms

Criminis courtesy of Rebecca Siegel

Criminis courtesy of Rebecca Siegel

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: Agaricus bisporus (and Agaricus hortensis)

Other names: button mushroom, white mushrooms, crimini (or cremini), portabella (or portobello, portabello, portobella), cultivated mushroom

Ever since I began my journey into the world of mushrooms, I’ve gotten a kick out of the mushroom section of grocery stores. There is some clever marketing going on in that section. You may have already guessed, but here’s the secret: most of those mushrooms are really the same kind.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

A tasty-looking homemade pizza courtesy of Food Recipes (follow the link for an alternate pizza crust recipe!)

A tasty-looking homemade pizza courtesy of Food Recipes (follow the link for an alternate pizza crust recipe!)

I know, I know: pizza gets a terrible rap in America. It’s a big ol’ disk of greasy cheese and possibly a meat-like substance that your parents got when they didn’t want to cook dinner that night. Or what your high school or college got in order to lure unsuspecting students to an event. You can get good pizza, but it involves going to a restaurant somewhere and spending a bit more than you probably want because it’s a pizza for crying out loud  (this is not to say that pizza from fancy restaurants is not delicious–we just have a stigma). And don’t even get me started on the whole “artisanal” pizza thing.  

But I have seen the light.  Today, I am here today as a pizza-missionary, seeking to cure our starved pizza-culture. Believe it or not, you can make good pizza at home. I am by no means a pizza-expert–nay, merely an amateur–but I have learned this: it all starts with the crust. 

Mushroom Log: Lion’s Mane

It's obvious why this mushroom got its name. Flickr/Wendell Smith

It’s obvious why this mushroom got its name. Flickr/Wendell Smith

Mushrooms occupy a strange place in our palates. Neither part of the plant or the animal kingdom, they are a 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: Hericium erinaceus

Other names: Old Man’s Beard, Pom-Pom Mushroom, Monkey Head Mushroom

The Lion’s Mane mushroom holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first mushrooms that I collected from the wild—and the first one that I ate. I found some of these guys growing a lot on an off-beaten path on campus, cautiously poked one (they do not look like mushrooms), went home to do a ton of research and eagerly returned to collect. In all, I wound up with quite a few pounds of Lion’s Mane and let me tell you: they were good.