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Oyster Mushrooms – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce



Jul 21, 2021

What are oyster mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms are named for the sideways growth of their cap, similar to an oyster shell. They’re usually a light gray or grayish-brown color. But they can also be other colors such as yellow and even pink. Oyster mushrooms are arguably the most popular of all the mushroom types, which could be due in part to their fast growth, and tolerance to various growing conditions. They feature a fan-shaped cap that can grow almost a foot across, almost no stem to speak of, and firm, white flesh. Many say they smell a little like black licorice or anise.

Oyster mushrooms have gills, the thin lines under the cap. The purpose of the gills is to produce spores that are dropped from the gills and scattered by the wind. The gills are attached to the stem and run most of the way down. The mushroom itself is usually white with a short, stubby stem that grows off-center.

The oyster mushroom is a carnivorous fungus, preying on roundworms by paralyzing them. This behavior is said to be part of their evolutionary development dating back hundreds of millions of years.

What are the different kinds of oyster mushrooms?

There are about 40 species of oyster mushrooms, each with a mild, sweet, woodsy taste, and a firmness that many other mushrooms don’t have, making them a great option for meaty recipes. You can find them in grocery stores, specialty markets, and in the wild.

  • Pink oyster: Although the pink mushrooms lose their gorgeous coral-pink color once they’ve been cooked, they’re beautiful raw. They’re also woodier, tougher, and stronger smelling than the typical oyster mushroom.
  • Pearl oyster: This is the most common type of oyster mushroom in North America.
  • Phoenix oyster: Smaller and paler than the standard pearl oyster mushroom, the phoenix oyster typically grows with a long stem. This mushroom is typically found in warmer weather and grows until late summer.
  • Blue oyster: While not actually blue, it flaunts a vibrant golden color with a grey, slightly blueish hue. It features dark caps, pale gills and tastes just like a pearl oyster mushroom.
  • Golden oyster: A bright yellow mushroom with a more complex flavor and highly aromatic scent.
  • King oyster: The largest of all the oyster varieties also looks different. It grows individually instead of in clusters with meaty white stems and brownish caps.

Where do oyster mushrooms originate?

Oysters were first officially documented in 1775 by a Dutch naturalist, but they were used in Chinese medicine before then.

They’re among the most cultivated mushroom in the world. And it all started in Germany during World War I when the prolific and easy-to-grow fungus was used during food shortages. They’ve been commercially processed and enjoyed as a vegetarian/vegan staple ingredient ever since.

What are the health benefits of oyster mushrooms?

They provide dietary fiber and other health-boosting compounds. They can be eaten raw but won’t digest properly, so it’s recommended they be eaten cooked. You may want to buy organic oyster mushrooms to ensure you’re getting clean and fresh variants.

Oyster mushrooms may also boost your health by:

  • Improving immune function
  • Promoting heart health as a good source of fiber
  • Improving metabolic health

What is the nutritional value of oyster mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms are a low-glycemic food and almost fat-free. While they can’t cure cancer, scientists are studying the compounds in mushrooms that may treat different diseases. A 1 cup serving of raw, sliced oyster mushrooms contains:

  • Calories: 28
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 15.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.2g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 0.95g
  • Protein: 2.9g

How are oyster mushrooms grown?

Because standard oyster mushrooms can grow almost anywhere, they’re widely available. They aren’t picky and will grow and feed on anything, including coffee grounds, straw, paper, and of course, wood. Even the most novice mycologist can grow them at home. However, some of its relatives only grown on trees.

When are oyster mushrooms in season?

Pearl oyster mushrooms, the most common type, are found in stumps and logs throughout North America. Cultivated versions are usually found year-round. In the wild, you’ll see them in fall or early spring.

How do you pick oyster mushrooms at the grocery store?

Look for plump, firm clusters that aren’t too moist or too dry. The caps sound be intact.

How can you tell if oyster mushrooms are bad?

Avoid ones that are dark, wilted, too moist, or slimy, or with caps that appear torn or missing.

How do you store oyster mushrooms?

Place them in a plastic bag or on a plastic-wrapped plate. You can also store them in a paper bag in the fridge, but they’re more likely to dry out that way. Fresh mushrooms can last 4-7 days in the refrigerator. If you store them dry, they can last even longer.

If you have more than you can eat in a few days, consider drying them. Slice into half-centimeter pieces onto a baking sheet and cook at 150°F for an hour. Turn and cook another hour. Let them cool, then store them in an airtight container. They can easily be rehydrated in a little warm water. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly before adding them to your recipe so they can soak up the sauce.

You can also freeze them by boiling for 1-3 minutes, drain and dry thoroughly, then seal in an airtight bag and freeze.

How do you prepare oyster mushrooms?

Clean them by brushing with a damp paper towel. While they can be eaten raw, cooking brings out their delicate flavor, and their spongy texture becomes velvety smooth.

What can I substitute for oyster mushrooms?

Just about any mild-tasting mushroom will work in a pinch.

  • Shiitake
  • Matsutake
  • Portabella
  • Porcini
  • Enoki
  • Chanterelle
  • Morel

A very versatile mushroom

The oyster mushroom has a delicate but savory flavor and works in a wide variety of recipes, including sauteed alone as a side dish, in pasta, soups, and stews, on a sandwich, or as a vegetarian/vegan meat substitute. Pan fry them with herbs, garlic, and lemon juice. Or pair them with Chinese, Japanese, or Mediterranean cuisines in a fresh vegetable stir-fry. Get all the ingredients you need for your next meal from Instacart today.

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