Oyster mushrooms have grown in availability and popularity worldwide. What does one look for when buying or choosing them?
Oyster mushrooms are named for their distinctive fan-like shape. Some claim that their flavour and texture resembles oysters. The stem, if present, is short and off-centre.
The oyster mushroom or Pleurotus spp is wide-spread in temperate and subtropical forests throughout the world. It has long been cultivated in Asia. It is frequently used in Japanese and Chinese cookery as a delicacy: it is frequently served on its own, sometimes stuffed, or in stir-fry recipes with soy sauce. It is also considered a gourmet mushroom in other cuisines and is now available internationally. Fresh oyster mushrooms can now be found in supermarkets and at farmers’ markets. Cultivated mushrooms are usually safe to eat.
Buying Fresh Oyster Mushrooms
The oyster mushroom is considered the more beautiful of fresh cultivated mushrooms. It comes in different colours. The colour depends on the variety and the growing conditions. Young oyster mushrooms have caps which range from pink, cream, white to grey. When mature, they turn pale brown. Mature oyster mushrooms are considerably larger – the cap can reach 12 cm in diameter. They will be chewier but tend to be sweeter and have more flavour.
Pleurotus ostreatus is the most commonly eaten oyster mushroom species. The colour of the cap of this variety is likely to be tan to brown but can be whitish, greyish or even grey-blue.
Oyster mushrooms are a good source of niacin, riboflavin and iron.
Choose mushrooms that are neither too moist nor too dry. The cap should be as intact as possible. The younger the oyster mushroom, the more tender it will be and the less it will shrivel up when cooked. Oyster mushrooms should be firm, not slimy and plump, with no wrinkles. They should not have any red or green patches and should have pleasant smell. The characteristic smell of oyster mushrooms is a little like that of the spice anise. The aroma often dissipates within a few hours.
Storing Fresh Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are probably the most perishable of mushrooms. They need to be kept between 1 and 4 degrees C, perhaps in the salad drawer of a refrigerator; in a container which is neither tightly sealed nor too open. A plastic bag should not be used because the mushrooms will sweat and quickly spoil. It is important that any white threads be removed. These are a sign of the mushroom’s continued development, since oyster mushrooms can continue to grow and form mycelia after being picked. Under the right conditions, they should last for up to two weeks.