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See the health benefits and how to identify the top 7 types of Oyster mushrooms and how to distinguish them from the 3 poisonous look-alikes.
Whenever somebody hears the word mushroom there’s a good chance they will automatically think of Oyster mushrooms. I mean, why not? It’s one of the more popular types of mushrooms out there and they can easily be found in a farmer’s market or even groceries.
Couple this with the fact that Oyster mushrooms are easy to identify and can be found at any time of the year. This mushroom is a bit rare to find in the wild but once you know where they grow, you will realize they are quite abundant. Their main season for growing is from March through May.
This article we will discuss about the oyster mushroom, how to identify them, and we will also talk about the different types of Oyster mushrooms. By the end of the article, you will be confident enough to identify them and you should have a great idea on what they are.
Top 7 Types of Oyster Mushrooms
Now that we have already talked about the Oyster mushroom, where to find it, and how it looks let us now talk about the different types of Oyster mushrooms. While there are 202 species of the Pleurotus clade we will talk about the the main 6 types of Oyster mushrooms you can find in the wild (or grow on your own).
While all of them are edible but with different flavor profiles only 6 of them fall under the Pleurotus species. Let’s start!
1. Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus Ostreatus)
The poster child of the Oyster Mushroom family, these mushrooms are favorites by people in North America. They can be found abundantly in the woods of the USA. In terms of flavor, they have a milder and more tender flavor profile than a shiitake mushroom.
The taste is described as woodsy but slightly sweet. Add them in your egg dish and it will transform it entirely.
2. Blue Oyster (Pleurotus Columbinus)
The Blue Oyster get’s it’s name because when the mushrooms first start to bloom they have blue caps. However, when you find them full grown the blue color actually turns grey.
The caps are dark while the gills are pale. The distinct contrast between the cap and gill give it a regal appearance to some. Blue Oysters are favorite additions to Asian cuisines or stews because they don’t lose their shape in soup.
Another thing to note is that Blue Oysters are often used as meat replacements because of their chewy texture. As for taste, one will find it hard to distinguish the taste of a blue Oyster from a pearl Oyster.
3. Golden Oyster (Pleurotus Citrinopileatus)
Mostly found in northern areas of Asia and cultivated in China, this fungi has been reported to be finding its place in North American woods. The golden Oyster comes in clusters of bright yellow cap with thin and delicate flesh.
It has a very distinct fragrance about it compared to its cousins. Golden Oysters can be eaten braised, in soups, or fried.
4. Pink Oyster (Pleurotus Djamor)
With an appearance seemingly inspired by a flamenco dancer, the pink Oyster comes in vibrant pink with a ruffled look. Aptly named the flamingo Oyster, this fungi is native to the tropics as they like the warmer temperatures.
While the flavor profile is a bit similar to its cousins, it has a strong, woody smell and can be tougher than the others. If you were counting on its color to stick after cooking then you would be disappointed. Pink Oysters are often used as a substitute for seafood in chowder recipes.
5. Phoenix Oyster (Pleurotus Pulmonarius)
Compared to its other cousins, the phoenix Oyster mushroom looks very similar to the pearl Oyster. The only difference is that the caps are smaller and have paler coloration. It also grows a longer stem than a pearl Oyster.
As for taste they are pretty much the same although some prefer it over the pearl Oyster for its thicker flesh. It can be paired with just about any type of dish but it works best with just garlic and butter and a hot pan.
6. King Oyster (Pleurotus eryngii)
Aptly named due to its sheer size compared to the other types of oyster mushrooms, the king oyster looks nothing like its cousins. Instead of growing in clusters king oysters grow individually. They develop thicker and meatier stems with tan-colored caps.
Also called King Trumpet Oyster mushrooms, they have a soft and crunchy texture when cooked with a savory umami flavor almost similar to that of abalone.
7. Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus Ulmarius)
The Elm oyster mushroom is actually not an oyster mushroom and has a misleading name. It is not actually a pleurotus species. The reason it is not considered a true oyster mushroom is because of the gills.
The gills of a true oyster will run all the way down the stem. A gill of the Elm oyster stop at the base of the stem.
This look-alike is not poisonous and can be eaten but they do not taste like a true oyster mushroom.
3 Poisonous Oyster Mushroom Look-Alikes
1. Jack-O-Lantern (Omphalotus Olearius)
The Jack-O-Lantern is typically confused with the Chanterelles however to me it looks very similar to on Oyster mushroom so that’s why I added it to this list. It also has gills that run down the stem like an oyster does.
The easiest way to identify it is the bright orange color. Oyster mushrooms don’t turn orange.
This mushroom is not fatal if eaten however it is still poisonous. If eaten you will experience severe vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.
2. Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe Dealbata)
This mushroom looks very similar to the Elm oyster but the difference is this one is poisonous. It also is different from the true Oyster mushroom in the gills stop at the base of the stem.
This mushroom is known as the sweating mushroom because if it eaten the poisonous symptoms are increase sweating followed by abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision and labored breathing.
3. Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus Nidiformis)
This mushroom actually glows in the dark (it has bioluminescent properties)! How cool is that?
Well, you don’t want to eat it though because it is poisonous. It is not lethal however it will cause severe cramps and vomiting.
It does resemble the oyster mushroom as the gills to extend all the way down the stem. While it’s easy to tell the difference at night during the day light might be a little more difficult.
It typically only grow in Australia, Japan and India. So, if you don’t live there you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
What Are Oyster Mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms is a type of edible mushroom. They are considered one of the most popular and widely consumed fungi all around the world. Their name derives from the shape of their cap that is similar to that of an oyster.
Oyster mushrooms are classified as a wood-decay fungus in that they digest moist wood. As a white-rot fungi they break down the lignin in wood and help in decomposing our dying trees.
One can also notice that they share the similar coloration of a raw oyster. The color ranges from grey-ish brown to light grey. However, they have family members that come in a wide variety of colors.
Oyster mushrooms grow fast and sturdily. They are quite hardy and can tolerate varying weather conditions.
They are not very picky with their substrate. I’ve seen other people forage for oyster mushrooms among different types of trees in different seasons.
Oyster mushrooms can be cooked like many other mushrooms why sauteing them in a skillet over low eat with some olive oil or you can put them with some stir fry.
Where to Find Oyster Mushrooms?
Foragers often find oyster mushrooms in clusters on dying or rotten logs because they grow on wood. The good thing about it is that once you find a cluster you ought to find a couple more on the same log.
When farmed, oyster mushrooms like to grow individually but you can still see a few big clusters here and there.
If you like to forage for oyster mushrooms you need to look for dying or fallen hardwood trees or logs. Don’t forget to check underneath fallen trees as they prefer the shade.
How To Identify Oyster Mushrooms
If you are a novice, you might still get the Oyster Mushroom confused over a few types of mushrooms. However, I’m here to help you out. Let’s try to identify an oyster mushroom.
First, you need to check the cap. It should be oyster shaped or at least fan-shaped. Usually they come in sizes of 5-25 cm with no scales or warts whatsoever. The flesh is white and firm while the coloration of the top vary to light white to brown.
Next, oyster mushrooms are unique in that they have decurrent gills. Decurrent means the gills run from the underside of the cap down to the stem and most of the way down. Oyster mushrooms have white gills.
Oyster mushrooms don’t have stems. While some varieties do have one it should be stubby and short. It’s also a bit off-center. Note that there should be no sack or rim around the stem.
Oyster mushrooms grow only on dead organisms. This means if you see an oyster mushroom on a living tree then you probably should think twice.
In the wild, Oyster Mushrooms have a few look alikes and majority of them are harmless. There are ones you should be wary of like the Elm Oyster, Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom, and Ivory Funnel that can cause health issues when eaten.
4 Medicinal Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are a great source of vitamins and nutrients to be included with any of your favorite meals. They have:
- 29 Calories in 1 cup (sliced)
- Almost no fat
- 361 mg of potassium
- 5g of dietary fiber
- 3 grams of protein
- They also have good amounts of Vitamin D, B-6, Iron and Magnesium
Not only are they ‘jam packed’ with nutrients but they also have proven health benefits as a medicinal mushroom, such as:
1) Immune System Booster
As with all mushrooms, they are jam packed with Beta Glucans that are found in the cell wall of the fungi. These Beta Glucans work as immune system regulators.
They are also packed with antioxidants that stop those pesky free radicals from damaging the healthy cells in our bodies.
2) Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
A clinical study was done that showed the Oyster mushroom is able to actually reduce the secretion of interferon-y, effectively stopping inflammation in it tracks.
3) Cancer Growth Stopper
Multiple studies have been conducted that have shown that Oyster mushrooms can stop the spread of breast cancer, colon cancer as well as has therapeutic effects on leukemia cells and colorectal tumors.
4) Cholesterol Lowering
Studies have shown to reduce triglycerides by 45% and lower overall cholesterol levels by 37% in rats.
If you love oyster mushrooms, it might be hard to forage for them especially when you don’t have a forest nearby. While it’s nice to go grab a couple from the grocery or the Amazon Whole Foods Grocery story (free deliver), you can also grow your own?
A number of people are selling oyster mushroom growing kits that allow you to farm your very own oyster mushrooms right at your home. The good thing is that you will have the choice of what mushroom to grow (I pick the King Oyster).
The kits contain everything you might ever need so all you have to do is follow the instructions and wait for harvest.
How about you? What’s your favorite type of oyster mushroom? Let us know!
Now that you have an understanding of the main different types of Oyster mushrooms and their health benefits you will be able to avoid their poisonous look-alikes and eat them with confidence.
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