Finding, Harvesting, and Eating the Oyster Mushroom

Every year at this time, oyster mushrooms appear from the stumps and fallen logs of cottonwoods along the Bitterroot River. This particular species (Pleurotus populinus) had inoculated a downed cottonwood.

Ecology: Saprobic; growing in shelf-like clusters on dead and living wood of Populus species, primarily quaking aspen; causing a white rot; spring, summer, and fall; widely distributed in northern and montane North America, throughout the range of the host trees.

Cap: 2-15 cm; convex, becoming flat or somewhat depressed; kidney-shaped to fan-shaped, or nearly circular if growing on the tops of logs; somewhat greasy when young and fresh; smooth; whitish to pinkish gray or pale tan, without dark brown colorations; the margin inrolled when young, later wavy.

Gills: Running down the stem; close or nearly distant; whitish.

Stem: Usually absent or rudimentary, when the mushroom is growing from the side of a log or tree. When it grows on the tops of logs or branches, or at an angle, however, it may develop a substantial and thick stem that is dry and slightly hairy near the base.

Flesh: Thick; white.

Odor and Taste: Odor distinctive but hard to describe; taste mild.

Chemical Reactions: KOH on cap surface negative to yellowish.

Spore Print: Whitish (never lilac).

Microscopic Features: Spores 9-12 x 3-5 µ; smooth; cylindric to long-elliptical. Compare with measurements for the epitype collection of Pleurotus ostreatus, rather than measurements quoted in most field guides.

 

Making the harvesting cut

Making the harvesting cut

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The delicious gems are a definite with their deep, earthy flavor that pairs perfectly with beef. I cooked the oyster mushrooms with slices of prime rib in a reduction of red wine with onions, garlic, and sage. Simple…delightfully.

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Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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