© Denzil Green
Oyster Mushrooms grow in Europe and North America in the autumn high up on branches on dead trees. They are also cultivated on tree logs, sawdust or straw compost, though cultivated ones will lack the faint liquoricey smell that wild ones can have.
There are actually many different varieties of mushroom sold as oyster mushrooms, that vary in colour from brown, grey, salmon pink, white and yellow.
Like most mushrooms, Oyster Mushrooms can decompose material to get their own food out of the material. They grow fan-shaped or if you prefer, shaped like an oyster shell, and thus their name. Their gills are on their lower side. They will be from 2 to 6 inches wide (5 to 15 cm.)
They have a soft, chewy texture and a mild flavour. They are very popular in Asian cooking.
They can be bought fresh or dried. When buying fresh, choose firm and plump ones. Smaller ones will actually have better taste and texture than big ones.
Clean by swishing in cold water, but not soaking. Watch particularly for insects that are often in the gills. Trim off and discard the stems as they are tough.
While Oyster Mushrooms should be cooked to develop their flavour, cook them only very briefly; they cook in about the same amount of time as it takes to cook scrambled eggs.
Yellow and pink Oyster Mushrooms turn grey when cooked.
Some people may have mild allergic reactions in the form of an upset stomach to Oyster Mushrooms. They will react in the same way as they would, say, to another kind of vegetable or food that “didn’t agree with them.”
Has very short shelf life once harvested, especially the pinkish ones. Store in fridge, use within 2 to 3 days. To freeze, sauté first in oil or butter.
Cultivation started to take off in the 1950s with the development of the sawdust technique, which came to be used for all mushrooms.