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Identifying Oyster Mushrooms

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Harvest of Oyster Mushrooms (with Trish)

Harvest of Oyster Mushrooms (with Trish)

Some things to know about Oyster mushrooms:

  • Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are found in late fall and winter. Other varieties of oyster (P. pulmonarius and P. populinus) can be found year round.
  • Oysters grow on wood: hardwood, either live or dead trees, stumps or branches.
  • They have gills., which are white to cream colored, and can descend a bit down the stalk (if a stalk is present.)
  • They usually grow in shelf-like overlapping clusters.
  • If a stalk is present, it will be off to one side, not in the center.
  • Spore print is white to cream or possibly lilac.

Oyster is a gilled mushroom. Gills are white (to cream) and can descend a bit down the stalk (if there is a stalk, which is sometimes absent, and if present is off to one side.)

Oyster is a gilled mushroom. Gills are white (to cream) and can descend a bit down the stalk (if there is a stalk, which is sometimes absent, and if present is off to one side.)

It is important to take a spore print when identifying mushrooms. The deadly galerina, which also grows on wood, will have a rusty brown spore print. (The deadly galerina also has a center stalk.)

Taking a spore print of the oyster mushroom. Since we expect it to be white, we are using non-white paper.

Taking a spore print of the oyster mushroom. Since we expect it to be white, we are using non-white paper.

Poisonous mushrooms to distinguish:

The oyster grows on wood and has gills. Poison (from toxic to deadly) mushrooms which grow on wood and have gills are: Jack O’Lantern, Deadly Galerina and Angel Wings.

Jack O’Lanterns areĀ  yellow-orange, with yellow-orange flesh and yellow gills and a whitish cream spore print.

Deadly Galerina is a smaller brown mushroom with creamy to brownish flesh, gills are yellowish brown, and spore print is rusty brown. It has a central stalk. This mushroom can cause death.

Angel Wings: Smaller, white, grows on evergreen wood not hardwood. Spore print white. Inconsistently reported as edible, toxic, and deadly, so I think is best to avoid.

Reference Books for Mushrooms

I use a couple of mushroom books as my main references. One is Good Mushroom Bad Mushroom by Western PA Mushroom Club member John Plischke III, and the second is National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.

Oyster mushrooms are delicious. They sell them at stores. If you buy them there make sure to smell them and memorize the smell; that will also help you identity them in the wild. Oysters have a distinctive sweet smell.

Remember, when eating wild mushrooms you need to be 100% sure of identification. Wild mushrooms can be deadly! Oyster mushrooms always grow on wood, have white to off-white gills, white flesh, and white to cream spore print. These facts are so important when identifying!

To learn more about wild mushrooms from local experts, join a mushroom group for a lecture, hike or foray. Local groups will be listed on the North American Mycological Association website. If you’re in or near Western PA, check out the Western PA Mushroom Club.

Festive Foraging!!

~Melissa

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Wild Edibles Abound in Mid-December

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It’s mid December in Western Pennsylvania and no snow on the ground. Though it has flurried a couple of times nothing has stuck. It may drop below freezing at night, but during the day it is in the 40s and 50s and there are many wild edibles all around. So many nutritious greens to add to soups and salads!

I took these photos on a walk around the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Brookline. Besides these edibles I’ve seen lots of deadnettles and garlic mustard all around.

Dandelion in bloom mid-December

Dandelion in bloom mid-December

Lots and lots of mallow everywhere

Lots and lots of mallow everywhere

It's hard to get a good photo of the wispy onion grass

It's hard to get a good photo of the wispy onion grass

Deliciously sour and fabulously healthy sorrel...one of the ingredients in the anti-cancer herbal formula Essiac.

Deliciously sour and fabulously healthy sorrel...one of the ingredients in the anti-cancer herbal formula Essiac.

The oyster mushrooms were found with my friend Trish just outside Pittsburgh, in Bellevue. They are delicious! More tomorrow on identifying oyster mushrooms.

Harvesting oyster mushrooms with Trish

Harvesting oyster mushrooms with Trish

Happy harvesting!

~ Melissa

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