King Oyster Mushrooms – How to Identify, Collect and Eat Them
King oyster mushrooms are large, meaty mushrooms with a rich, umami flavor. They're versatile and can be grilled, broiled, sautéed, or braised and served as a side dish, or as the main component of a meal. In this article, we'll look at how to find these mushrooms, store them properly, and cook them using only a few simple ingredients.
What Are King Oyster Mushrooms?
King oyster mushrooms are a type of mushroom that is native to many countries in Asia and the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Africa. They are cultivated widely in China, Japan, Korea, and other countries in the region, where they are used in a variety of cuisines. Their dense texture makes them a great substitute for meat and seafood.
King oyster mushrooms are grown in high-tech factories that resemble modern warehouses. The mushrooms are grown in specially prepared jars filled with organic material. Temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels are kept at optimum levels. The mushrooms grow until they're ready to be picked, packaged into plastic bags, and shipped to retailers and distributors.
How to Cook King Oyster Mushrooms
King oyster mushrooms are perfect for vegan and vegetarian dishes because of their firm, meaty texture. They can be pan-seared like sea scallops, sliced lengthwise, and threaded onto skewers for satay chicken, or shredded with a fork for a dish that resembles braised pulled pork.
They can be sliced or chopped and served in many types of dishes, including pasta dishes, tempura, casseroles, meatballs, and meatloaf. They can be roasted, grilled, pan-seared, and stir-fried.
King oyster mushrooms are rarely eaten raw, as they have a relatively bland taste. However, by cooking them and adding fat or oil, their flavors are released and they become more delicious.
Oyster Mushrooms vs. King Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms are both in the same botanical genus, Pleurotus, but they are different species. Oyster mushrooms have short stems and fan-shaped caps. They're irregularly shaped with ridges and grooves and grow in clusters. King oyster mushrooms are much larger and nearly cylindrical with smooth caps that grow separately.
What to Look for When Buying King Oyster Mushrooms
When buying king oyster mushrooms, choose the freshest ones you can find. They are not cheap, so purchase only those that are unblemished and free from dirt or soil. The stems should be firm and unbroken. Wash them gently if they seem dirty, but do not wash away their delicate flavor.
If you're eating the mushrooms raw and finely sliced, pick small ones as they have a slightly stronger flavor. However, when cooked, their natural umami flavor becomes more pronounced, so it doesn't matter how big or small you make them.
What Do They Taste Like?
King oyster mushrooms taste earthy, woody, intensely umami, and seafood-like with a hint of licorice. Their texture is meaty and slightly chewy, and can be compared to scallops, abalone, and calamari.
How to Store Them
King oyster mushrooms are best used right away. However, if you plan to store them in your refrigerator for any length of time, remove them from their plastic packaging and store them loosely in a paper bag inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator set in a humid setting. This will allow excess moisture to evaporate. The mushrooms will keep for around 10 days.
Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms
1) Rich in Antioxidant
Oyster mushrooms are rich in flavonoids and phenolics. These antioxidants and other compounds help to prevent cell damage in your body. This can reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases.
2) Enhances Immune System
Oyster mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse filled with beta-glucans that boost your immune system and prevent illness. They're also a rich source of antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage and oxidative stress that leads to aging.
3) Builds Strong Bones
Oyster mushrooms contain important nutrients for building strong bones, including vitamin D and magnesium. Calcium is well known as a bone strengthener, but you also need vitamin D and magnesium to process calcium and store it in your bones.
4) Protects against neurodegenerative diseases
In short, the amino acid ergothioneine is a potent antioxidant that protects cells against oxidative stress and free radical damage. As such, it may have the potential to combat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
King oyster mushrooms are excellent to have in your fungus library. They're large, meaty, and tasty, making them a great choice for many dishes. With proper identification, they're relatively easy to find, and with proper preparation, they're suitable for even the most inexperienced mushroom forager.