Oyster mushrooms are medium to large in size with caps averaging 5-25 centimeters in diameter and a very short or non-existent stem. The caps are broad and fan-like, ranging in color from dark gray, brown, tan, pink, to yellow, and have curled edges that become wavy and lobed with maturity. White gills extend from beneath the cap, and the flesh is white, meaty, and firm. Oyster mushrooms have a slightly chewy texture and are soft with a bittersweet aroma reminiscent of anise. When cooked, they have a mild and nutty, seafood-like flavor.
Oyster mushrooms are available year-round, with a peak season in the late summer through fall.
Oyster mushroom is a general descriptor used to refer to three different species of fungi including Pleurotus ostreatus, Pleurotus pulmonarius, and Pleurotus populinus, which all belong to the Pleurotaceae family. Oyster mushrooms get their name from an uncanny resemblance in appearance and taste to fresh-shucked oysters. Found growing on decaying wood, especially beech and aspen trees, Oyster mushrooms grow in stacked layers in a shelf-like formation and are found in many different temperate forests across the world. Oyster mushrooms are one of the most cultivated mushrooms in the world along with shiitake and button mushrooms and are extremely versatile in flavor melding with many different cuisines and culinary applications.
Oyster mushrooms contain vitamin B6 and D, fiber, potassium, and folate. They also contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine, which can help decrease inflammation in the body.
Oyster mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as frying, stir-fry, and braising, as up to ten percent of the population could have a slight allergic reaction to eating the fungus raw. They can be cooked and added to soups, chowders, sauces, egg dishes, tarts, pasta, lasagna, and pizza. They can also be fried for tempura, fried into vegan calamari, used as a substitute in mock-oyster Rockefeller, or stuffed into dumplings. Oyster mushrooms cook relatively quickly and are typically added at the end of the cooking process. They are popularly used in many Asian dishes in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. They can also be dried for extended use and do not have to be rehydrated before using. Oyster mushrooms pair well with onions, shallots, green onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, thyme, parsley, peas, green beans, eggplant, sherry, soy sauce, tofu, scallops, poultry, lemon, and spaghetti. They are extremely perishable and are recommended to be used immediately for optimum flavor and quality. They can also be stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator for a very short time.
Oyster mushrooms are one of the only few carnivorous mushrooms, feeding on bacteria and nematodes, which are small roundworms, to obtain nitrogen for growth. They also grow rapidly on decaying wood, contributing to a faster rate of decomposition which helps add additional minerals back into the ecosystem. With this ability, Oyster mushrooms are being studied as an alternative way to clean toxins from the environment. While further research needs to be completed before assessments can be made, scientists are hopeful these mushrooms can offer a safe and effective way to remove unwanted toxins from designated areas on a small scale.
Oyster mushrooms are native to Europe, North America, and Asia and have been growing wild since ancient times. They were first recorded and classified in 1775 by Dutch naturalist Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr Von Jacquin and were later reclassified in 1871 by German mycologist Paul Kummer to the classification we are currently familiar with. Oyster mushrooms were also commercially cultivated beginning in the 1940s, and today China is one of the largest exporters of cultivated Oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms can be found at local markets and specialty grocers in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America.
Description Courtesy : specialtyproduce.com