As autumn takes hold, the nights draw in and the leaves start to fall from the tree, as if by magic, mushrooms small and large start to emerge, often what seems overnight.
You should only forage for mushrooms with an experienced guide as identifying mushrooms can be complex and several mushrooms in the UK are fatal, others can cause severe upset or other…..unusual symptoms. However watching mushrooms grow is fascinating and it is possible to easily grow mushrooms at home. One of the tastiest and most rewarding is the King Oyster Mushroom
The king oyster mushroom is native to the Mediterranean and is quite a different beast from the oyster mushrooms you will usually see in shops. It is a bulbous mushroom that grows about 10 cm high. It has a fine flavour when cooked, has an almost meaty like texture which holds up to cooking well and has a low moisture content making it perfect for grilling or putting on the BBQ, sliced in half and rubbed with a little oil and garlic. You are most likely to find in oriental supermarkets or as part of a luxury selection and can be as much as £1 a mushroom. If you enjoy them this makes growing it at home a worthwhile investment as you will reap the cost of the kit many times over. My estimate is that my current kit has close to 100 little tiny mushrooms waiting to grow, not bad for an investment of £12.
How to Grow
The easiest way to grow king oyster mushrooms is to buy a kit. This will contain a bag packed full of premixed, hardwood sawdust or straw impregnated with spawn and a tray with a clear plastic lid. It is best to start your kit as soon as they arrive.
Always follow the instructions sent with the kit but in general it will involve making several slits in the bag, giving a generous watering and kept at about 20 – 25 degrees centigrade, misting daily with water, until little pin prick mushrooms can be seen.
Bring the kit in to a light cool room at about 10 degrees centigrade and again misting daily until the mushrooms start to form. Harvest the mushrooms whilst the cap is still quite small and tight. To harvest, pull the whole mushroom out of the substrate, leaving none behind. You should be able to harvest for a month, then make more slits in the plastic and repeat. One kit should last upwards of three months.
The mushrooms in the picture are being kept in my kitchen in less than ideal conditions with the temperatures fluctuating between 10 and 20 degrees depending on the time of day. However it doesn’t seem to be harming their progress , other than they are growing a little slower than if at a higher consistant temperature.
In the kitchen
If you are growing these yourself trim any substrate and woody bits off. If you have bought them you might wish to trim the end off as it will have dried out a little.
My favourite way to cook these is to either slice lengthways in half and brush with olive oil, rub in some garlic then sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill on the BBQ for a few minutes each side until golden brown.
They are also wonderful sliced lengthways about half a centimetre thick and fried on a medium heat in a large pan with some olive oil and a bit more garlic, salt and pepper, turning occasionally until golden.
They can also make useful additions to rice or noodles in place of chicken.