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Oyster Mushroom

Pleurotus ostreatus

Knowledgable mushroom lovers all over the world wait until the fall of the year to pursue the robust oyster mushrooms that grow on trees in the wild. Shortly after the first rains of the season, the snow-gray petal-like beginnings of P. ostreatus can be found. The autumn forest is brightened with the delicate, young, translucent, eccentrically stemmed caps cascading shelflike from the surface of dead hardwood trees. The cap is scallop shaped and has a delicate aniselike aroma not usually found in oyster mushrooms grown on artifical material. Occasionally, tan caps will be found, and some of these can spread out to 18 inches in diameter, with thick, meaty flesh. It is possible to gather caps from a single log two or three times in one season.

Oyster Mushroom -- Click for larger image

Fresh oyster mushrooms can now be found in supermarkets and farmer's markets alongside our friendly but less-expensive common store mushroom. Cultivated oyster mushrooms are not only sweet tasting but versatile, because they can be used as a subtle flavoring agent in many ways.

A spectrum of colored Pleurotus has appeared in the marketplace. Gray, blue, yellow, pink, and white caps will please the eye as well as the palate. Members of our society call it the "designer mushroom." Especially delicious is the dark-capped P. sajor-caju, which blends well in a variety of dishes. The stems are tender and tasty, which makes them a good buy.

The most recently introduced cultivated Pleurotus is outstanding: it has delicate daffodil-yellow flowerlike caps with pure white stems, and grows in large clumps. One such group could be used as a centerpiece for a dinner table. The almost fruity aroma reminds one of certain zinfandel red wines, and this sweet quality is not lost in cooking. Prepared in a baked noodle dish, its pleasant flavor mixes with the other ingredients without losing intensity. Try to buy those which have large caps. The small specimens do not have the same fine flavor. Cook the same way as P. ostreatus. The stems of the yellow Pleurotus may be quite bitter to some individuals, in which case they should be removed and discarded.

For do-it-yourselfers, oyster mushrooms can be grown at home on a small scale from kits sold through seed catalogues and gardening magazines.

Occasionally clumps of Pleurocybella porrigens, "angels' wings," are found on coniferous wood. These are slender, smaller, short-stemmed relatives of P. ostreatus. They are encountered over most the United States. Cook and clean them as you would other Pleurotus species.

A few minor intestinal upsets have been reported from eating Pleurotus mushrooms. These are usually mild reactions, such as those some of us have had from eating watermelon, cabbage, etc..


Cut off the lower part of the stems of all oyster varieties, especially when using cultivated caps, to remove any shreds of straw or wood. The stems are tough, so discard them. Be certain to rapidly flush out the gill spaces of wild mushrooms. Insects enjoy this sanctuary. Use a minimum amount of water, since P. ostreatus is naturally quite moist. Gently press between paper or cloth towels to remove excess liquid. All species of Pleurotus are cleaned in the same manner.


Oyster mushrooms are used in stir-fried dishes, since the cap is thin and cooks quickly. Asian chefs simply tear the mushroom into desirable sizes before adding it to their woks.

If you prepare a dish that requires a long cooking time, add these mushrooms at the last stage of cooking. Once heated briefly in butter or oil, they add character to a light cream sauce poured over fillets of sole or chicken breasts.

Sometimes very large specimens with flesh more than 1 inch thick are found. These can be cut into large pieces, dipped into slightly beaten eggs, and then rolled in bread crumbs for pan-frying.


Store in a freezer after briefly sautéing in butter.

Oyster mushrooms dehydrate rapidly. When used dry, they can be added to a dish without rehydration. Asian stores now offer them in bulk and in packages, fresh or dried.

Oyster Mushroom Chowder

Serves 4 as a first course

A robust soup for a cold night.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced onions
  • 1 cup cubed peeled potatoes
  • 2 cups milk, scalded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of ground mace
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Bread cubes browned in butter and drained well
  • Minced fresh parsley

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the mushrooms and onions, and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan and slowly cook the potato cubes for 10 minutes or until tender. Gradually stir in the milk. Add the salt, pepper, mace, Tabasco, and thyme. Allow this to come to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sherry, and half and half and slowly blend the mixture into the chowder. Add the onions and mushrooms and heat almost, but not quite, to a boil. Taste to correct the flavoring.

Serve at once in soup plates. Float the bread cubes in the soup and sprinkle with parsley.

--Kitchen Magic with Mushrooms

ALTERNATE MUSHROOM: Shaggy Parasol Mushroom

Oyster Mushroom Tempura

Serves 4 as a side dish

Pastry flour makes a lighter batter, but all-purpose flour can be used as a substitute in this recipe.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup very cold water
  • 2/3 cup pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, cut or torn into large pieces
  • Oil for deep-frying

Beat the egg slightly in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cold water, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt to make a thin batter. Dip the mushrooms into the batter.

Heat the oil to 375º and deep-fry the mushrooms until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

--Lois Der

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Common Store Mushroom, Shiitake

Mock Abalone

Serves 4 as a side dish

Sautéed oyster mushrooms are similar to abalone in taste. Serve them hot.

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms (cut large ones in half)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges and/or soy sauce

Put the flour, salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, garlic, and paprika in a small paper bag. Add the mushrooms and shake well.

Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the mushrooms on each side for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and/or soy sauce.

--Lois Der

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms

Serves 4 as a main course

Most mushrooms may be used with scrambled eggs, but oyster mushrooms converts them into an elegant main dish.

  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup slivered shallots or green onions
  • 8 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil (see page xx)

Dredge the mushrooms in the flour. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook until brown. Add the shallots and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Stir in the eggs, Tabasco sauce, parsley, salt, and pepper. Scramble the eggs and sprinkle the sesame oil quickly over the eggs while they are still soft. Serve immediately.

--Edward Lodigiani

Stir-Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish

Oyster mushrooms are incorporated in many Asian dishes. They cook quickly, and are therefore naturals for stir-fries.

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Asian sesame oil (see page xx)
  • One 1/8-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced or torn in even pieces
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 Chinese-style ( firm ) tofu cakes, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or more

Using a wok or skillet, heat the peanut and sesame oils together until bubbling. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, peas, and sugar and quickly stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth. Cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tofu and soy sauce. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes. Serve immediately over rice.

--Louise Freedman

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Common Store Mushroom, Shiitake

Chicken Breasts with Oyster Mushrooms in Champagne

Serves 4 as a main course

  • 4 single chicken breasts, skinned and boned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/4 cup dry champagne
  • Parsley sprigs

Pound the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper until slightly flattened. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts Roll them in the flour and shake off excess.

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan or skillet and sauté the chicken over low heat for about 3 minutes for each side. Add the mushrooms and cover the pan for 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, over low heat. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and keep warm.

Add the champagne to the sauce and bring it to a boil, cooking until it becomes creamy. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve.

--Linda Scheffer

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Chanterelle, Common Store Mushrooms, Morels