Oysters of the land

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Foraging for edible wild mushrooms Australia - oyster mushrooms
Oyster mushroom ahoy!

 How to find a new variety of tasty eating mushrooms.
1. Spend some spare time enjoying a read of other people's wild mushroom adventures.
2. Take the dogs out for a walk to the exact same spot you go at least three times a week.
3. Sit down for a rest on a tree stump.
4. Realise you have almost sat upon the mushroom you recently read about.

True story.

Although I managed to ID this as an oyster mushroom, I'm really not sure which oyster mushroom this is. Thankfully that doesn't matter as all oyster mushrooms are edible. All you really need is to be certain it is definitely an oyster mushroom and not it's poisonous habitat sharing vomit-fest imposter omphalotus nidiformis (Australia and Japan only). How do I know it wasn't this? Omphalotus nidiformis (the ghost fungus) glows in the dark in the presence of oxygen. These did not. Oyster mushrooms, if they have a smell, smell of anise and the ghost fungus has no scent. Check strong anise scent.

And what did it taste like?  
Bizarrely, reminiscent of lamb chops. Yes truly. It was a bit disconcerting to this 20 year vegetarian. Thankfully the taste similarity was only mild and I'm sure if it was taste tested head to head with real chops there would be very little similarity. It's a good eating mushroom, but we knew that already as oyster mushrooms are grown commercially all over the world.

Foraging for edible wild mushrooms Australia - oyster mushrooms
Pleurotus ostreatus or Pleurotus australis or Pleurotus populinus? I'm not sure but it definitely isn't Omphalotus nidiformis
But which oyster is it? 
There are a good half dozen or so and I narrowed it down to three Pleurotus ostreatus - the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus australis - the native Australian oyster/the brown oyster mushroom and Pleurotus populinus - the Aspen oyster mushroom.

Why the confusion? 
The stump it was growing on had been cut down to ground level and was fairly rotted. It was beyond my ability to ID the tree. Pleurotus populinus only grows on
the Populus species of trees ie aspen, poplar and there are plenty of these in the area. But there's also plenty of gum trees and conifers, which the other two varieties will grow on. So no help there.

The spore print was absolutely white and stayed that way after drying overnight. Pleurotus ostreatus has a white to greyish or lilac spore print, Pleurotus australis has a white drying to pale tan spore print and Pleurotus populinus has a white only spore print. Looking like Pleurotus populinus is a strong contender? Wait for it....

Colour. What did we have? Older mushrooms with dark tan cap, white flesh, creamy to yellowish tan gills.
Pleurotus ostreatus has a cap that can be pale brown to dark brown, white flesh, gills whitish or with a gray tinge, sometimes yellowish in age. Well that fits as these specimens were a bit older. Pleurotus australis has a cap that is pale grey-brown ageing to darker brown, white flesh, gills cream to brown. Um ok, that fits too. Pleurotus populinus has a cap that is whitish to pinkish gray or pale tan, without dark brown colorations. Ah we have a mismatch.

So after all considerations, my best guess is Pleurotus ostreatus. I'm happy to hear opinions from other mushroom hunters and I have plenty more pics available.

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