Oysters are fast becoming one of my favourite mushrooms and not just because of the taste. My last two finds resulted in a massive haul of superb quality mushrooms and now the taste and smell remind me of two great days foraging with good friends. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy my foraging so much more this last year; because of the people it has introduced me to and the massive part of my life they have become.
Oysters are supposedly renowned to have an anise smell due to the presence of Benzaldehyde which I always find bizarre, as benzaldehyde is used as an almond flavouring and I figure smells of ,…….. almonds!
Anyway if you want my personal opinion I think oysters smell like errrrrrrr…..Oyster mushrooms! I get a sweet earthy smell from them but have not experienced the anise, but I suppose we all have our own nose .
My first experience of Oysters this year were summer Oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius) which I found in July. These were quite spectacular bright white masses of fungi, engulfing a fallen trunk. These are stunning against the greens of the summer woodland and there are no visible colour difference between the body and the gills. They are quite uniformed, almost opaque to the outer, but getting creamy brown in the centre as they mature and not dry to the touch, in fact quite slimy.
As regards to the taste , well they taste good in a stew or stir fry, but don’t have a good enough “stand alone” taste and if you fry them, they release a pretty off putting smell, but definitely worth harvesting. It’s probably worth noting that they cook quite quickly.
Sizes range from 1-4 inches and they last around two weeks before turning on the log. They are found from July – September and like warm damp climates.
My second Oyster find this year has been over in South Wales this December and I’ve had some great finds of Pleurotus Ostreatus, the first being to the credit of a foraging friend of mine who found a tree which was dickered in Oysters and Velvet Shanks leading probably 40 feet up the tree; I don’t mind saying it was quite breathtaking and some of them getting close to ten inches in size. White / cream gills with the top a greyish blue changing in depth dependant on age .
They are relatively tough and to the touch they are not as delicate as the summer oysters. They are also dry to the touch with the texture of skin and unlike the summers, they take quite some cooking and hold a large amount of moisture. My advice is when you think they’re cooked, keep cooking for a few minutes more .
They have a good meaty flesh, great for omelettes and stir frys and in my opinion make a good addition to just about any meal.
I also have read that they were first properly harvested in Germany during the war as a food source for the soldiers and probably a good piece of info for you is that they are a natural cholesterol balancer proven to lower cholesterol .
They can be found from September right through until march and in fact are one of the few mushrooms that are not only resistant to frost but actually thrive on it, and that makes it a nice mushroom for winter foragers and one spot will fruit an entire season .