Chicken of the woods mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) are sometimes called sulphur shelf, crab-of-the-woods, or sulphur polypore.…
The Black Staining Polypore (scientific name Meripulus Sumstinei) is an edible fungus belonging in the family of polypore (multiple cap) mushrooms. The fungi were first described by American mycologist William Alphonso Murrill and were moved into the Meripulus genus around 1988. The name Meripulus comes from the Greek word “meri” which means “part” or “portion” and “pilos” which means cap, referring to their outward appearance.
Where To Find The Black Staining Polypore And When
Black staining polypore mushrooms are parasitic and saprobic in their nature. This means that they parasitize or feed on dead or decaying tree matter. They can grow either on the ground (on or around the roots of trees) and on the stumps or logs of dead or decaying deciduous trees such as oaks, beeches and maples. The species is found exclusively in North America, although close relatives of these polypores known as Meripulus Giganteus can be found in Northern Europe as well. Their peak season is late July to November.
How To Identify The Black Staining Polypore
As implied by their scientific name, these mushrooms have a cap-like appearance with multiple clusters fanning out of a short and thick base/stalk which typically stretches half an inch to one inch (1 to 3 cm) in length and 3 to 4 inches (8 to 11 cm) in width. Each cap is medium to small in size and has a beige white tone when young that eventually turns a smokey grayish brown once the mushrooms reach maturity.
The term “black staining” stems from the fact that some of the caps have multiple little greyish black or graphite stains in their surface when touched. This blackness also occurs when the mushroom is old. The caps have a texture similar to fine hairs which is slightly wrinkled. The caps grow anywhere from 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) wide. The fungi do not have any gills in their pore surface, which is fairly smooth and off-white in color when viewed upside down. Their spores are white when magnified and elliptical in shape. The scent of the mushrooms is mild and acidic – it is “umami-like”, but not overpowering or unpleasant.
Their most common look-alike is the “hen of the woods” (Grifola frondosa) mushroom, which also grows in multiple clusters and has a similar hue. However Grifola frondosa does not form any black stains when touched or harvested. The fronds of the Black staining polypore are also much thinner and flexible compared to the hen of the woods.
How To Grow Them
Black staining polypore cultures (for growing at home) are difficult to find both offline and online. However, there are a few online outlets that sell black staining polypore mushrooms mycelium for $15-20/Unit. The exact growing method is unknown, however, they appear to grow in a similar manner to that of shiitake and oyster mushrooms in that they prefer a wood-based substrate to grow on such as tree logs or sawdust. A possible approach to growing them is as follows:
- Gather 2 logs of around 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) long.
- Drill 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep holes into the logs. Drill each hole 5 to 6 inches (13 to 18 cm) apart from the other until you cover all the upper surface.
- Fill these holes with sawdust (halfway down). Inoculate with your live spawn using a syringe.
- Once you finish filling the holes, seal them with wet wax to prevent mold contamination.
- Keep the humidity at a moderate level. Keep the logs in a cool and shady place such as in a basement or a shaded garden.
- If conditions are right, you may start to notice some growth in 6 months to a year.
The medicinal value of the black staining polypores has not been researched yet. However, their European brother Meripilus giganteus, which is nearly identical in DNA formation, has methanol extracts and enzymes that seem to attack cancerous cells in a few trials, showing potential anti-cancer action.
These polypores, in general, are good sources of protein and trace minerals, making them a good option for vegans.
How To Cook Black Staining Polypores
Although not as famous as chicken of the woods or hen of the woods in the culinary world, black staining polypores are worth cooking and trying out. This is because of their rich earthy taste and mildly fruity scent. Their fruiting bodies are, for the most part, too hard for direct consumption and cooking. However, their tender edges can be cut into thin slices and sauteed in a bit of oil. Their trimmed edges can also be dried and used in a variety of ways. You can make vegetable and mushroom broth or add them in liquid-based dishes like soups and stews. To use them in something more solid and filling, here is a black stain polypore vegan burger recipe to try:
Ingredients (3 to 4 Servings):-
- 14 oz kidney beans, washed and drained
- 8 black staining mushroom bodies, cleaned and either finely chopped or processed in a food processor
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup white wine
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan and add the mushroom bits. Add the shallots and wine and cook until nearly all the liquids have evaporated (around 7 to 8 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and thyme to taste.
- Use a fork to mash the kidney beans (do not mash them completely). Add the mushrooms and the breadcrumbs and mix them in. Season with extra salt and pepper if necessary.
- Form into 3 to 4 medium burger patties and cook in a greased pan for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
- Serve ideally with burger buns, lettuce leaves and barbeque sauce.
Despite being less popular than other edible mushroom species such as the chicken of the woods, black staining mushrooms are worth harvesting and eating because of their umami scent and rich meaty taste.
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