The Oyster Mushroom

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Photograph by Kerry Kaufman, January, 2018

Today we spotlight the Oyster Mushroom. With great health benefits, a mild flavour, and the innovative ways in which they are being used to decrease pollution this is one of our favourite foods.

Until I went on a forage with the Alberta Mycological Society I thought Oyster Mushrooms only grew in the tropics. In fact, I had never tasted them before moving to Asia! We were in the Bragg Creek area and there found oyster mushrooms growing in the wild, loads of them!  It was so surprising to find them thriving naturally so close to home! Here is a picture of some Oysters we saw…

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Bragg Creek, 2016

We didn’t take any that day but were excited to learn that they can thrive here. If you see them in the wild, be safe by checking with an expert (in-person is best) before eating as there is at least one look-alike which is poisonous. The guys who led our group had some detailed books to help with identification but we weren’t quite confident enough to eat them without the eyes of an expert. Maybe on a Saturday night! (see http://www.wildmushrooms.ws)

This summer Jack, Ana and I plan to grow our own Oyster Mushrooms in our little Calgary yard using a starter kit. I’d love to hear suggestions, questions, comments or experiences you may have had in growing mushrooms. I will post about the process, to try helping others who have an interest.

Interesting finds:

Oysters are a carnivorous mushroom killing nematodes and some bacteria. And, ingeniously, they are being used in mycorestoration helping bring back the health of compromised sites.  The ability of the Oyster Mushroom to decrease pollution levels offers some hopeful solutions to big human problems. For example, Matter of Trust is a San Francisco organization working on figuring out how mushrooms (along with human hair!) can be used to repair some of the damage caused by oil spills. They make mats out of hair to absorb the oil, as hair naturally does this. Then mushrooms are grown on the mats which turns it all into compost. This solution blows my mind! (See http://matteroftrust.org/press/hair-and-mushrooms-create-a-recipe-for-cleaning-up-oily-beaches-november-2007)

Health Benefits:

Niacin (which can suppress inflammation, and improve circulation) content is 10 times higher than any vegetable. Oyster Mushrooms are also high in calcium (good for bone and vascular health), phosporus (used in tissue repair and waste filtering) and potassium (essential for nerve and muscle function). Oyster Mushrooms naturally produce statins which lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by stimulating the liver to clear it from the body. They are low in calories and high in several other nutrients. (See https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do)

In cooking:

Oyster Mushrooms have a subtle, nutty taste and go well in soups and stir fry’s. They can simply be fried in butter with garlic, salt and pepper. They also hold a great texture when added to yummy soups. Jack uses them in Thai soups like our Tom Yum Goong and Tom Ka Gai. I have used them in creamy mushroom soups as well. Anytime you fry mushrooms use smokin’ hot heat.

 

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