I am very excited about Sunday's mushroom find: my very first Fistulina hepatica! Commonly called the beefsteak fungus, beefsteak polypore, or the ox tongue polypore.
I know, it's a strange thing to be excited about . . . but this fungus, though it can be found anywhere in the East, is still pretty uncommon to rare--especially in the northeast, where I live. Despite the fact that this was the first time I found this mushroom, I didn't have a second's doubt as to what it was, this is an incredibly distinctive fungus.
Identifying Fistulina hepatica *
|Where I cut the mushroom from the tree you can see the |
translucent, juicy flesh and the liquid
- Growing as a fan-shaped shelf on dead or living wood
- Does NOT have a central stalk or stem
- Seems to have pores on the underside, really these are long tubes
- Does NOT have gills
- Color is pink to red to deep red on top, and white to cream to yellowish on the underside
- Underside bruises deep red to brown
- Texture, especially inside, somewhat gelatinous or rubbery. Flesh is somewhat translucent, and texturing closely resembles raw meat or a meaty fish, like a tuna.
- When fresh and young drips a pinkish or red liquid when sliced.
|Pale underside that bruises dark red/brown|
|Ganoderma tsugae. When these mushrooms get older they loose their light |
colors, becoming completely red. In that stage, they can resemble
beefsteak polypore, but they are too hard to eat.
*As always you should never accept anything you read on the internet without verifying it for yourself with either a local expert or several publications. Colors can vary from monitor to monitor, and images are not as clear as in printed materials. Personally, before I eat anything I verify it with at least 3 reliable sources. I have found this to be a remarkably good way of ensuring my safety when foraging.
My experience with Fistulina hepatica
Many people apparently regard this as a choice mushroom. I would be willing to experiment with it further, should I find another one, but as it is now. . . not one of my favorites.
Most mushrooms have tons of suggested cooking methods on the internet, but since Fistulina hepatica is pretty rare, there wasn't a whole lot, and what their was was frequently contradictory. Rather than rely on the experiences of others, I decided to take a thin slice and sauté in a pan with some butter, to get a "baseline" taste.
|After a night in the fridge. |
This is how they will sometimes look on the tree.
Some say even young specimens of this mushroom are tough and require long cooking. That was certainly NOT the case with my mushroom. It was tender from the get go, and didn't take long to cook through. Wow, though. The taste was painfully acidic. Not sour nor even tart, just acidic. Very strange. Apparently Fistulina hepatica has a variety of acids in it, including oxalic acid. (Avoid if you have RA or kidney problems). After reading more I decided to boil it to leech out the acid. I was determined to find a way to enjoy this mushroom!
|Sliced thin, the mushroom looks remarkably like meat.|
I tasted it, and all trace of acidity was gone--but so was most of the flavor. As a textural experience, boiled Fistulina hepatica is very interesting. The mushroom was slimy, but not overly so, and despite its gelatinous look, it really wasn't chewy. The mouthfeel is very similar to a fatty meat, like an unsmoked bacon; if you closed your eyes, you might think you were eating cooked meat fat. There was, however, more or less no taste.
At this point I debated breading and frying the fungus, which was what several sources suggested. I really didn't want to though, in my opinion anything that needs to be battered and fried to taste good isn't worth eating. Instead, I hoped the mushroom would absorb flavors, and I decided to sauté it further in white wine, butter and garlic. It came out ok. It did absorb some of the flavor, and the meat fat mouthfeel was interesting, but it just wasn't great, or even that good.
|After boiling then sauteing in wine, butter and garlic.|
The texture was as strange as the appearance.
Still I got to experience a mushroom that isn't even often found in this area, and that is very exciting. Have any of you found and eaten one? What did you do, and how did you like it?