The oyster mushroom is a superb eating mushroom that can be picked even in winter, when there’s not much else available to mushroom foragers.
Where to Find It
Oyster mushrooms grow on dead and dying hardwood trees—very often on beech, but also on willows and poplars. In some cases they’ll even make a home on conifers. You'll may find them grafted onto tree stumps in gardens and parks.
Deciduous forests, towns.
When to Find It
The oyster mushroom is a winter mushroom and can survive even relatively severe periods of frosty weather.
Entire mushroom: October, November, December, January, February, March.
How to Spot It
In form—symmetrical and fan-shaped—and color, the oyster mushroom is reminicsent of its bivalve namesake. Ranging from steel grey to tan to powder blue, its caps grow up to 15 cm in diameter, and are smooth and slightly shiny. The gills are creamy white or greyish-blue, densely packed, and extend slightly down the stem, which is two to three cm long, white, and smooth. Oyster mushrooms tend to grow together in bunches.
How to Pick It
Cut the mushroom of the tree and discard the bottom part of the stem. Only younger oyster mushrooms are worth taking home.
On the palate
Oyster mushrooms have a distinctive umami flavor and a slight bitterness. Younger mushrooms have slightly tough flesh but are soft, while older ones are more fibrous.
Oyster mushrooms have a sour, spicy scent.
Slice oyster mushrooms or tear them apart by hand and fry them thoroughly before using. It rarely takes much work to clean the mushrooms, but you can dust off any remaining dirt from the forest with a small brush.
Oyster mushrooms are good in sauces or soups, fried in butter with herbs, and served on bread with lemon. Highly absorbent, they pair well with anchovies, capers, chilli peppers, and other pungent flavors. You can grill the large mushrooms lightly on each side and serve them whole.
Store oyster mushrooms in a cool, well-ventilated place for a few days.
No equivalent substitutions.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
Oyster mushrooms can be confused with the olive oysterling and the veiled oyster mushroom. None of these are toxic, but they're not exactly good eating. Olive oysterlings are olive green in color and have leathery yellow gills, while veiled oyster mushrooms have tougher flesh than oyster mushrooms, scaled caps, and a leather brown center that fades toward the rim.