Cauliflower mushrooms (genus Sparassis) are large fungi that are often said to have the likeness of a cauliflower head. They also bear a resemblance to brains, coral reefs, and big sea sponges, due to their unique no-gills spongy and frayed look. These mushrooms are parasitic and saprotrophic in nature as they feed on dead or rotten organic hardwood and similar matter.
Where To Find Cauliflower Mushrooms And When
Cauliflower mushrooms grow natively in North-Western U.S, Canada, U.K, Australia, Korea, Japan and some European regions.
Due to the fact that they are saprotrophic, you can find them as parasites in roots, stumps, or trunks of old, decayed or dead hardwoods such as oak, pine, and spruce. They grow in separate colonies and some trees may bear up to 3 mushroom fruits of this kind.
They can be found from late August to November and in early spring.
How To Identify Them
Because of their unique, sponge-like appearance, these mushrooms are quite easy to spot. Unlike other mushroom species, they have no gills and have visible flattened lobes with extra small pores. In terms of size, they typically grow anywhere from 4 to 10 inches (10cm to 25 cm) tall, and their weight can reach up to 30 lb (14kgs). They are a creamy milky white or very light beige in color, especially when they are fresh. Once they begin to rot though, their hue becomes a darker brownish yellow and this is a sign that they are not ideal for consumption, despite not being poisonous.
Fortunately, because of their unusual appearance, there are no poisonous mushroom species that look similar to cauliflower mushrooms.
How To Grow Cauliflower Mushrooms
These mushrooms are a tad tricky to grow yourself as their spawn and substrates are not widely available and there are specific steps involved in their cultivation that cultivation companies and nurseries often do not describe. However, you may adopt the following typical mushroom growing process or the usual cultivation steps that apply to gourmet mushrooms:-
- Get at least three liquid culture syringes for cauliflower mushrooms from an online store or nursery.
- Layer your fertilized spawn into a growing tray or container using a substrate (such as sterilized rye berries) around 3 inches (7.6 cm) deep. Place in a warm location. You may optionally place a heating pad or heater close to the tray to keep the temperature warm. Wait for around 4 weeks for the mushrooms to germinate.
- Top the germinated container with a 1-inch (2.5 cm) layer of good quality soil. Dampen a big cloth and place over the top to lightly moisturize the culture. Spray 2 to 3 times a day with a spray bottle to preserve its moisture levels.
- Repeat the above step for 40 to 50 days and check if any mushrooms have popped up above the level of the soil. If so, wait a few more days or until they have reached a satisfactory height to harvest them. They should be full-grown but not overly mature so don’t wait for more than 60 days.
Besides being a good source of plant protein and trace minerals such as zinc and manganese, cauliflower mushrooms also possess antibacterial, anti-viral, and antifungal properties. Some studies have found that cauliflower mushrooms may also have:
- Anti-cancer properties (in the prevention and treatment of cancerous cells)
- Immune system boosting properties
- Cardiovascular system protection properties
- Helps delay or prevent strokes
The nutrients found in cauliflower mushrooms may also be beneficial for bone, muscle and skin tissue repair.
How To Cook Cauliflower Mushrooms
Cauliflower mushrooms are well-known for their rich, nutty taste and slight citrusy flavor. They also have a rich fluffy texture with a bit of crunch, making them ideal for sauteing, breading, and grilling recipes. These are also great in soups and stews.
Cauliflower mushrooms are generally safe to eat when they are fresh and white in color. When they become yellow or decayed however, they are difficult to digest and side effects may occur such as bloating, heartburn, and diarrhea.
Before cooking them, you should make sure to clean them thoroughly as they tend to collect more dirt and soil compared to other mushroom species. A damp cloth or quick rinse of water is ideal for cleaning them out before cooking. However, make sure they are drained of excess moisture for the best cooking results.
A good recipe that requires only 4 ingredients is this:
Asian Cauliflower Mushroom Soup
- 1 big cauliflower mushroom, cut into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and add the cauliflower mushroom pieces and lime juice. Boil for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened up but are not falling apart.
- Stir in the soy sauce. Serve warm.
Cauliflower mushrooms are perhaps one of the most unique mushrooms in both appearance and culinary value. Because of their distinctive looks, they are ideal for foraging since they won’t be mistaken for something inedible or poisonous.
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