The Gift That Continues to Give: Oyster Mushroom
by Cynthia Briscoe
Don’t you just love surprises? I sure do.
This winter a friend of ours surprised us with a load of firewood, a cord of seasoned walnut from a friend’s local orchard. It had been raining softly and steadily for a few days, so the wood was very welcome in our fireplace to take the chill off. The delivery was broken in half because the ground in the orchard was water saturated, and the pickup when weighted with a full load of wood could easily get stuck. The two deliveries were sandwiched between bouts of rain and beaming moments of sunshine.
What a beautiful satisfaction it is to stretch into your lower back muscles, while admiring a neatly stacked wall of wood. And there’s certainly gratitude for those trees' lives that continue to give, first through walnuts and shade, and then by supplying wood and warmth. Even their ashes would continue to give, by being used to cure my olives in wood ash.
As if all this generosity wasn’t enough, the walnut logs gave up yet another surprise. When grabbing a chunk of wood to stoke the fire, I noticed tiny, nubby-white spheres protruding from one side of a log. Most were not much bigger than a pinhead, but I recognized them right away: oyster mushrooms, one of my personal favorites!
I danced into the kitchen and grabbed a stainless steel pot and filled the bottom with a few inches of water. The log stood up nicely in the pot. Wet paper towels placed over the mushroom babies would keep them moist and protected as they grew. Indeed, the mushrooms grew each day and are still growing.
Oyster mushrooms are one of the most common wild mushrooms, and very sought after for their delicious flavor. They are now becoming more commonly grown commercially, and may be available in your local grocery store. You can often find them being sold in Asian food markets. Oyster mushrooms are best cooked and should not be eaten raw. In fact all mushrooms, with the exception of truffles should by cooked in order to benefit most from their nutritive values and to deactivate certain heat sensitive compounds.
Wild mushrooms in general have very high amounts of Vitamin D. They are also rich in protein. Oyster mushrooms have all of this plus the real treasure of its unique enzymes. As such, the oyster mushroom provides a significant ally for human health.
It's nice to know that something so delicious also gives so many healing benefits. Following is my favorite way to cook oyster mushrooms.
1 lb. fresh oyster mushrooms
Cooking oil such as sesame, olive or safflower
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or unbleached white flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the mushrooms in bowl of water and quickly drain in a colander. Trim off
any pieces of bark that might remain on the stems.
2. Place the flour in a small paper bag or plastic vegetable bag.
3. Add the drained oyster mushrooms and twist the bag opening closed such
that some air is trapped inside the bag to make it puffy and hollow inside.
4. Gently turn the bag over a few times to dust the mushrooms with flour.
5. Warm a thin layer of cooking oil in the bottom of a skillet.
6. Pull the mushrooms out of the bag, knocking off excess flour.
7. Place them in the frying pan.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Cook until golden on one side and then turn over. Season the second side.
9. Press to flatten with a spatula.
10. When the second side is golden, flip once more and cook additionally on both
11. Add a small amount of oil if needed.
12. Keep the heat such that the mushrooms are golden, but do not scorch.
13. Drain on paper towels and serve while hot.
14. A small amount of grated daikon or red radish served on the side compliments
Please try oyster mushrooms. I know they will become one or your favorites!
In the next newsletter, learn about the fascinating role mushrooms play in environmental bioremediation.
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