Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Oyster Mushrooms Recipes and Benefits You Probably Can’t Live Without


Mushrooms are having a moment, and one you definitely don’t want to miss out on? The versatile and mighty oyster mushroom. From health and environmental benefits to delectable recipes, here’s why they’ll have you asking, “are there oyster mushrooms near me?”

One of nature’s most versatile fungi, the oyster mushroom, is named for its resemblance to the marine bivalve. But the similarities don’t end there. Oyster mushrooms are a global phenomenon, growing on decaying wood in the great outdoors and also cultivated with care on farms as a healthy, sustainable, and deliciously fun meal essential, and like oysters, they can play a vital role in keeping ecosystems healthy.

Paul Stamets, a leading mycologist and author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, says oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are more than just healthy food. They can help with oil spill clean-ups and other remediation efforts. In a 2008 Ted Talk, Stamets explained how oyster mushrooms cleaned up common toxic substances including diesel and petroleum, among other pollutants, turning the sludge from a health hazard to a thriving ecosystem.

oyster mushrooms
Photo courtesy Manny Becerra | Unsplash

“Hundreds of pounds of oyster mushrooms had covered the pile [of waste],” he said. The mushroom’s mycelium — the root structure — saturated through the waste, turning the pollution into fungal sugars. Once the fungi had sporulated, they attracted insects, which laid eggs. The larvae attracted birds, which brought in seeds, “and our pile became an oasis of life,” he said. Stamets also noted that “the aromatic hydrocarbons — went from 10,000 parts per million to less than 200 in eight weeks.”

But there’s nothing wrong with simply eating oyster mushrooms, too. Oyster mushrooms come in a variety of colors — blue, yellow, pink, and the most common, pearl. They’ve got a unique fan-like or oyster shell shape, and their smooth texture is a treat for the taste buds.

Oyster mushroom nutrition

Don’t be fooled by their simple exterior; oyster mushrooms are a powerhouse of nutrition. They’re low in calories, virtually fat-free, packed with fiber, and a good source of protein, which makes them a real boon for folks on a vegan diet.

They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA, they provide a good amount of B vitamins, vitamin D (especially when sun-exposed), potassium, and iron. They also contain beta-glucans, a type of fiber known to boost heart health and regulate blood sugar, and antioxidants, which help keep our bodies healthy by fighting off harmful free radicals.

pink oyster mushrooms
Photo courtesy Bryony Elena | Unsplash

There’s research to back this up; one study found oyster mushrooms lowered inflammatory markers. Another study found a connection between oyster mushrooms and lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol. Other research has linked oyster mushrooms to reduced liver damage, lower triglycerides, and blood sugar regulation, among other benefits.

What do oyster mushrooms taste like?

Being healthy is one thing, but how do oyster mushrooms taste? According to Chef John Ash, a culinary instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, oyster mushrooms have a mild, subtly sweet flavor with a “hint of earthiness” that makes them a versatile addition to any dish.

Oyster mushrooms have a dense and chewy texture, somewhat akin to meat, making it a great substitute for meat in a range of recipes.

How to cook oyster mushrooms

Cooking oyster mushrooms is easier than you might think. Before you cook them, though, clean them gently with a damp cloth instead of washing them, as they can absorb water and turn soggy.

You can sauté, stir-fry, roast, or grill these versatile mushrooms. C

Chad and Derek Sarno, the co-founders behind Wicked Kitchen and mushroom enthusiasts, say in their Mushroom Manifesto that the “press-and-sear strategy” works with any member of the mushroom family. “This special undercover approach will change your perspective on the entire mushroom organization,” they say. “The technique will change your life and once mastered, make you a better cook! After you press and sear these subterranean gangsters, you can toss them in sauce, marinate them, and even slow-smoke them to make incredible plant-based barbecue.”

oyster mushrooms bbq
Barbecue oyster mushrooms. Courtesy Wicked Kitchen

So just what is the press-and-sear strategy? The Sarnos say it’s pretty simple to do:

“Just heat up a cast-iron pan or other heavy pan until it’s ripping hot. Then swirl some oil in the pan and pack in as many mushrooms as will fit. Put a second heavy pan on top of the shrooms and press them down, searing them right in the slammer. The top pan will get a little hot, so use tongs or a folded kitchen towel when you press. When the shrooms are all good and browned on the bottom, season them with a little salt, pepper, and other seasonings then flip and brown the other side. Repeat the process, flipping and seasoning and adding a little oil, until the mushrooms get compressed, crisp, and deeply browned on both sides,” the Sarnos write. This tactic, they say, causes the water to evaporate, which concentrates the flavor. “Pressing them
down makes them dense and chewy, and searing magnifies their elusive ‘umami’ flavor.”

There are other ways to cook mushrooms, too. A simple sauté, roast, or kebab them and toss them on the grill.

Food journalist, author, and former columnist for The New York Times Mark Bittman says no matter where they’re going or how you’re cooking them, it’s best to cook the mushrooms on their own first. They release water when heated, and cooking them separately ensures they brown nicely instead of boiling in their own juices.

Vegan oyster mushroom recipes

Now, let’s dive into some vegan recipe wonders featuring oyster mushrooms. Any color oyster mushroom works and you can sub-in other hardy ‘shrooms in a pinch like porcini or shiitake mushrooms.

Photo courtesy Frankie Lopez | Unsplash

Vegan oyster mushroom ‘pulled pork’

Anything meat can do mushrooms can do, too, and that includes BBQ and Taco Tuesday.

This innovative technique uses the texture of oyster mushrooms to mimic pulled pork. Shred the mushrooms, sautéing them until they’re crispy, and you’ve got your base for a range of dishes. For a pulled pork BBQ, douse them in barbecue sauce and cook a bit longer. Serve it in a bun with coleslaw for a vegan ‘pulled pork’ sandwich that’s a sure crowd-pleaser.

For tacos, sauté shredded oyster mushrooms with a bit of olive oil, garlic, and your favorite taco seasonings until they’re nice and crispy. Place them into a warm corn tortilla with some crunchy cabbage slaw, a squeeze of lime, and a spoonful of fresh guacamole. You’ve got yourself a flavorful, vegan-friendly fiesta.

lentil soup
Photo courtesy Green And Great | Unsplash

Oyster mushroom and lentil soup

This warming soup is perfect for a cozy evening. Begin by sautéing diced onions, carrots, and celery. Add in a couple of minced garlic cloves, followed by a generous amount of sliced oyster mushrooms. Once they’ve browned nicely, add in a cup of rinsed lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, and vegetable broth. Let it all simmer until the lentils are tender. Serve with a slice of crusty bread for a comforting, nourishing meal.

Fried chicken-style oyster mushrooms

Fry up oyster mushrooms instead of chicken for a mouthwatering treat. You can use your favorite fried chicken batter — just sub in the oysters instead of the chicken and enjoy.

Oyster mushrooms near me?

Looking to get in on the oyster mushroom action? Of course you are, and you’re probably asking, are there oyster mushrooms near me? While mushroom hunting can be an incredibly fun and fruitful hobby, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing as picking the wrong mushroom could be deadly. There are hundreds of mushroom species, so it’s easy to confuse them and best to work with an expert guide or seasoned hunter.

Buying oyster mushrooms may be a safer and easier bet. Check with your local farmers market as they often have mushroom growers with a range of exotic fungi available. You can also find several types of mushrooms beyond the simple button kind at your local supermarket produce section. Health food stores may also offer a wide range of mushrooms.

Another way to ensure you’ve got oyster mushrooms near you is to grow them yourself. It’s easier than you think with mushroom grow kits now widely available. The kits are affordable — about the price of a few mushroom meals at home, and it’s a great activity for kids and the whole family to get involved in.

What is the best way to eat oyster mushrooms?

Mushrooms should be cooked to release their flavor and make them more digestible.

What is special about oyster mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms are rich in healthy antioxidants that have been linked to reduced risk of certain chronic illnesses.

How do you prepare oyster mushrooms to eat?

Cooking methods including sauteing, stir-fry, grill, roasting, and the press-and-sear method are best for cooking oyster mushrooms.

What part of oyster mushroom do you eat?

You can eat the entirety of an oyster mushroom including cap, gills, and stem but depending on which mushroom, the lower part of the stem may be tougher to chew.

What does oyster mushroom taste like?

Oyster mushrooms will take on the flavor of the herbs and spices used in cooking, but on their own, their taste is a bit earthy, with a dense and chewy texture.

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