Oyster mushroom – Edibility, Identification, Distribution
- Edibility – 3 - An good, meaty mushroom, great in stir-frys and to supplement other fungi.
- Identification – 3 – 5-20cm diameter pale to dark grey, brown or occasionally olivaceous brackets growing in overlapping tiers; crowded cream to fawn gills running down a short stipe. Avoid the olive oysterling, which has a distinct stipe and olivaceous tone.
- Distribution – 3
- Season – September-March – one of the few fungus that can be found during winter, fruiting is stimulated by frost.
- Habitat – Grows on standing and fallen beech trees – often lightening damaged.
Oyster mushrooms are becoming quite familiar to most people as they are easy to cultivate and commonly sold in delicatessens and large supermarkets. There are a few subspecies of oyster mushroom, some of which can grow enormous – like the 4kg beauty shown below. Probably the most beautiful mushroom I have ever seen.
If you think you have come across some particularly pale, ghostly and flimsy oyster mushrooms in dank coniferous woodland then you are more likely to have found angel wings (pleurotellus porrigens). This used to be considered quite rare, but now seem quite common in older conifer plantations. It is very beautiful in dank misty woodland, though less good to eat than true oyster mushrooms. I have seen its edibility listed as “unknown”, but I have eaten it on several occasions with no ill effects. There was recently a case of group poisoning in Japan and the finger was pointed at angel wings (considered a dilicacy over there). The case is a little dubious as the mushroom had been widely eaten for centuries previously. I suspect cross-contamination, or possibly a gastro-irritant being ingested at the same time.