Thursday, December 29, 2016

Winter oyster mushroom identification tips for foragers, locavores and more! Easy winter foraging for wild food.

Identification difficulty: Novice

December 2016 saw an abundance of one of my favorite mushrooms: the winter oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus). I wasn't the only one finding abundant flushes, Instagram was filled with pictures from all over the country.

Winter oysters are one of the best edible mushrooms. They're frequently HUGE - I've found caps that are 9 inches across when fully mature, though 4 - 6 is more common. They have a super-dense, meaty texture, even more so than summer or store-bought oyster mushrooms. They make an exceptional vegan alternative to meat or seafood, especially when properly prepared. They are also great on the grill.

NOTE: there is another mushroom sometimes called the fall or winter oyster mushroom. It looks very similar to Pleurotus ostreatus, but it's actually totally different -- even in a different family. It's Latin name is Panellus serotinus, and it's edible too, but can be bitter, and requires a LOT of long, slooow cooking. It has a different stem and often a different color. Keep reading for more information.

While not exactly a beginner's mushroom, I personally consider the winter oyster mushroom to be a pretty straightforward identification, even for the novice. Summer oysters are actually harder to ID, because there are more similar looking species when it's warm. In just 5 simple steps, you too could be enjoying these tasty foraged mushrooms!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Deconstructed vegan sushi bowl with wild mushrooms. Gluten-freewildcrafted food. Foraging recipe.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. With such an abundance of wild winter mushrooms in the woods this year, I feel like I've already unwrapped tons of presents. I've found nearly 10lbs of one of my favorites: Pleurotus ostreatus, aka the winter oyster mushroom! Oyster mushrooms are found in temperate regions, and even in the tropics, world-wide. They are fairly easy to identify, have medicinal qualities, and frequently fruit in abundance, making them a great wild food. And, of course, you don't have to forage for them, you can get them at almost any market!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spicy, sour Sichuan wood ear mushroom salad. Vegan, foraged wild mushrooms

We are officially in the middle of December and Texas mushroom hunting is still going strong. . . though it's a little more complicated than it was in November. This week we saw temps in the 50s, with cold rain, then a drop to 34! Finally the week ended with a spell in the low 70s. I've been harvesting winter mushrooms: oysters, velvet foot, and wood ear like crazy. Most has been going into the dehydrator, but I've been enjoying stir fries, mushroom sauces, soups. . .and this amazing salad.

Wood ear mushrooms are a staple of Chinese cuisine, where they are appreciated not just as food, but as natural medicine. Western science has recently validated wood ear as effective against tumors, as an anti-coagulant, hypoglycemic, among others. Wood ear mushrooms are mild in flavor (they absorb whatever they are cooked in), and gelatinous and somewhat chewy in texture. Marinated wood ears are a popular cold appetizer in Sichuan (Schezwan) Chinese cuisine. They are spicy and sour, slightly sweet, and served with cilantro, chilies and bell peppers. The resulting dish is crisp (from the peppers), chewy (from the mushrooms), and refreshing (from the cilantro).