In today’s article, we’re going to discuss oyster mushrooms and their health benefits. I am also going to go over some delicious recipes and my favorite dishes which use these incredible fungi as the main ingredient.
What are oyster mushrooms?
They are one of the most popular edible mushrooms in the world. They grow out in the wild, but they are also one of the most cultivated mushroom species in most countries, so their availability certainly is not an issue. Believe it or not, they gained “popularity” during World War I when they were first grown commercially to supplement the food shortage in Germany. As it proved as an invaluable food source for Germans, other health benefits also emerged.
The Latin name Pleurotus ostreatus firstly refers to their unusual growth which is in a sideways manner, while the word ostreatus refers to the oyster, which many believe they got due to the similar taste they share with this salt-water bivalve mollusks.
However, there is one more attribute they share, and that’s the shape of the cap which resembles the open oyster. It is asymmetrical and can range from 2 to 10 inches. While their main use is in the food industry, they are also used for environmental cleaning due to their decontaminating properties.
Where do they grow naturally?
This type of mushroom is known to grow in various sub-tropic and temperate forests around the globe. However, they are completely absent in North-western US since the different type of mushroom species took their place. While it is commonly believed that they grow only on dead trees, they can actually grow pretty much anywhere. However, their favorite habitat are dead trees.
They do not cause damage to the host tree themselves, but rather grow on the one in process of decomposition. For this reason, they are considered good for the environment and forest ecosystem. An interesting fact about them is that they are one of the few mushroom species which are considered carnivorous. Their food of choice are eelworms which are known to populate numerous different habitats.
Are oyster mushrooms good for you?
This particular mushroom has been used in China for centuries to boost immunity. For that same reason, it stuck after the war in Europe. When it comes to nutritional value, it contains vitamins B1, and B2, as well as different minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, potassium, zinc, etc. Besides this, it is also a great source of antioxidants.
Due to all of its health benefits, it is used to treat hypertension, high cholesterol, and different infections caused by a weak immune system, as well as for cell regeneration. In Chinese medicine, it has also been used as a painkiller and muscle relaxer, and the remedy for stiff joints and poor blood circulation. The recommended dose is 3 to 9 grams of dried mushrooms per day.
How to cook them and what do they taste like?
When it comes to their role in cooking, they are most popular in Asia. Japan, China, and Korea are known to favorize this mushroom the most, but it is also fairly popular in Europe. One thing that you should keep in mind is that you should always pick, or buy them young. Old mushrooms acquire a rubbery texture and overly strong and unpleasant taste.
Aroma-wise, it is most similar to aniseed plant, while their overall taste can be considered as mild and earthy, characteristic to some of the other popular mushroom species. They are mostly used as a side dish, however, you can use them to enrich any other dish as well.
Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms
This is one of my favorite recipes, and it is very easy too. Cut up 3 oz of red onions. Cut up 1.5lb of mushrooms. Add some oil of your choice and start sauteing the red onions on medium flame. After they start changing color add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they become soft. Now, it is time to add some sour cream. You can add as much as you like, but my personal preference is 1 cup. Add a little salt. Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes, and you are done.
I’ve got another recipe for you in a video that is done a bit differently, but it is delicious nonetheless.
Another great way to prepare them is by frying. The frying process of any food is very simple, and most of us have done it numerous times. However, I’ve decided to try this vegan version from the video below. The result was amazing, and this became one of my favorite mushroom recipes overall. Check it out, and try it out, you won’t regret it.
Can you grow your own them?
Growing mushrooms at home is not overly complicated. It can be accomplished regardless of the mushroom species, and the same goes for this type. Essentially, all you need are the spores. After you acquire them, the proper environment for mushroom growth is needed. We are not going to go into specifics, but you can check out the video we got in store for you.
It is just one of many you can find online, and if you are serious about growing these particular mushrooms, you can educate yourself without much effort.
Where can you get them?
You can get these mushrooms at certain large supermarkets, but you’ll have a better chance of getting them at the specialized food markets. As mentioned, these mushrooms are not rare. They are commercially produced, and they are readily available.
How to store oyster mushrooms?
Storing these particular mushrooms can be tricky. You have to keep them away from moisture, and for that reason, it is best to store them fresh in a paper bag in the fridge. This method will keep them good for about three days, after that, they will become dry, rubbery, and essentially inedible. Storing them in a freezer is not a viable option since the combination of low temperatures and moisture will break them down.
When it comes to dry mushrooms, the process is a bit more simple, since all of the moisture is already removed. You should prepare a properly sealed container, and store them in dry, and dark conditions. Time-wise, they won’t go bad for about a year.
Cooked or fried mushrooms can be stored in the fridge for about three days after which they’ll be inedible. You can also store them in the freezer and they will be good for several months.