"Don't wish me happiness I don't expect to be happy all the time....It's gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, 18 May 2015

Oyster mushrooms and preserving the harvest

I was introduced to oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus) when I first came to this island by my neighbours who are mushroom experts. They brought some over along with some other mushrooms as a welcome gift. That was sixteen years ago or so and each year around this time I watch for oysters when my little girl and I are out walking in a nearby forest. Oyster mushrooms fruit on dead, sick or dying red alder trees. Sometimes I have smelled them before I actually saw them. They have a scent that to me is a blend of forest earthiness and the salty sea. I use a pocket knife to remove them and I leave part of their short stem behind. I believe that doing this encourages a continued harvest. It's typical for me to return to the same tree for several years and then after that point the tree is rotted out and they are unable to fruit. There really is no poisonous look a like's here in the Pacific Northwest. Hypsizygus ulmarius, ( which currently has not been found in B.C.) is edible but apparently it is not as tasty. It's gills stop before the stem. In contrast the gills in oysters always run at least part ways down the stem. Omphalotus nidformis which grows for the time being in Japan and Australia look very different to my eye but it is touted as a look a like. However it has a rusty brown spore print which is very different from the white to lilac spore print of the oyster mushroom. So I always make a spore print, (lay a mushroom gill side down) on black paper which takes overnight. You can never be to cautious with wild mushrooms and peace of mind is knowing 110%. The only time I have ever gotten sick from an oyster mushroom was when I ate a popsicle at the same time while slicing raw mushrooms. My hands and the popsicle never touched each other or my mouth but they came too close. Since then I never eat while handling raw mushrooms and I always wash my hands and kitchen utensils after I am finished. I store oyster's in the fridge in a glass Pyrex bowl with the lid ajar as plastic bags make them slimy. I use a dampened rag to wipe off forest debris. The idea is to get them as little as wet as possible. I always end up harvesting more than what we can eat so I preserve them. One method that I have tried is dropping them into salted boiling water for a minute or two before freezing but it destroys their delicate taste and I have never done it again. A better way is to sauté them in oil. First I slice them into the size I want which is bite sized. Then, I sauté them in an uncovered frypan with oil until the water is drawn out. After they have cooled I measure out 1 cup amounts and put them in bags and freeze. But the best method is drying. I slice them approximately 3mm thick or so and put them in a food dryer I have hanging above my wood stove. When they are done I store them in the freezer. To reconstitute I soak them in warm water or grind them into a powder. I add them into soups and stirfry's. They are a gift from the forest and they enrich our lifestyle through the simple joy of forest walks and in our diet where their earthiness adds variety.

17 comments:

  1. Mushrooms are my passion. With olive oil and chicken and something green, their tenderness is a joy in the mouth! Tasty too!

    Ronda, enjoy your day. I hope you are having good weather; we here are having 35-40 degrees again. STRANGE!

    Much love, Anita

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anita Mushrooms are a great addition to many dishes. Our spring weather is fading into summer early. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  2. These sound delicious, Ronda. I love all types of mushrooms, but I have never heard of this type before. Have a wonderful day. xo Laura

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura and thanks for dropping by.

      Delete
  3. My husband is a huge mushroom fan...me, not so much. I used to love them as a kid, but tastes change. How cool to be able to grab food from the forest. The best I do around here, is pluck mint or basil from the garden. How very suburban! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well mint tea is good and so is pesto! Thanks for reading and commenting. It's alway's nice to hear from you Kim.

      Delete
  4. You are amazing, Ronda! I am always a bit afraid to eat mushrooms that someone has picked and presented to me as a gift....afraid they don't know what they are doing.
    I have never heard of that type of mushroom but there is nothing like the taste of good ones sauted in a bit of butter! xo Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! I was a lot younger then... Yes fresh and fried is the best way to eat mushrooms! It's nice to hear from you Diana.

      Delete
  5. Wow - what a wonderful gift to receive, and also to learn how to find, prepare, and store them too! I don't know much about mushrooms, and we have a lot here where I live. I think I need to take a class or something, to find out more. They are so good for you, but you do have to be careful not to pick poisonous ones. Morel mushrooms are really popular here, and are quite a delicacy. I appreciated you sharing your advice on how to store them too! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes online resources are helpful but you do need an expert in real life to show you. This is especially the case with ground dwelling varieties as nearly all of them including morels have toxic look a likes.

      Delete
  6. Good morning, dear Ronda! Thank you for this fascinating look into oyster mushrooms. I never knew they had to grow on a certain kind of tree in a certain kind of condition. How interesting! And how wonderful that you can harvest them fresh yourself!

    I made a yummy vegan clam chowder once that used fresh oyster mushrooms for the texture of clams. It was delicious!

    Have a lovely day, my friend! Hope you're getting good weather up there! (((hugs)))

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have never picked a wild mushroom. I know Morel mushrooms are popular in Wisconsin.
    This was very interesting.
    Thank you,
    Carla

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Carla. I'm glad you found that interesting.

      Delete
  8. Hi Ronda :)

    I've been on your site for quite awhile this morning. You live a very interesting life and your stories are very intriguing.

    Thank you so much for your visit to my blog :)

    rue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rue. I am very pleased to meet you.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete