Lion’s Mane mushrooms (also known as monkey head mushrooms and bearded tooth mushrooms) are a unique-looking type of fungi that belong in the tooth fungus group with a globe-shaped appearance that resembles the look of a Lion’s mane, hence their name. They are edible and have a potential medicinal value, even though there are not many studies confirming their medicinal properties.
Where To Find Lion’s Mane Mushrooms And How To Identify Them
These mushrooms grow naturally in North America, Asia (Japan, China, Malaysia), and some Northern European countries such as the U.K., Sweden, and Finland. They usually thrive between late summer and early Autumn but in some regions (such as the U.K.), the mushrooms are able to produce spores up until February. In a similar fashion to oyster mushrooms, they feed on decaying matter, and you can spot them popping out in very old or decaying hardwoods such as beech, oak, maple and hickory trees.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are relatively easy to distinguish because of their unique appearance – they don’t have any stems or caps like ordinary mushrooms. Instead, they have long spines (also called teeth) hanging out in a string-like form. Some species of Lion’s mane may not have a long spine and fluffy appearance and may grow like branches. The species Hericium abietis and coralloides specifically, grow in this branch-like form. The most common characteristic applying to all Lion’s mane mushroom species is that they are off-white to light yellow or nude brown in color and typically grow in multiple layers.
Fortunately, Lion’s mane do not have any poisonous look-alikes and so if you see any mushroom with the above characteristics, by all means go for it (subject to local legislation – it is illegal in some countries/states to harvest wild Lion’s mane mushrooms).
How To Grow Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Probably the easiest, fastest and most practical way to grow Lion’s mane mushrooms is to get yourself a lion’s mane mushroom grow kit from a plant nursery or an online store, with all the materials you need and step-by-step instructions to grow your mushrooms.
However, if you wish to grow them from scratch without using a grow kit, the process is quite easy and is similar to cultivating other mushroom types, with a few differences in details such as temperature. Here are all the essential steps:
- Purchase spawn for growing Lion’s mane mushrooms specifically with hardwood substrates.
- Put the spawn in a plastic bag and make small slits or holes with a sharp knife. Remove the top growth (whitish layer on top) if necessary to encourage more growth.
- Boil 1 pint (½ litre) of water to remove chlorine and contaminants and allow to cool. Transfer to a spray bottle. Spray the bag with the spawn through the slits or holes that you’ve made earlier to provide humidity. Keep spraying 2-3 times a day.
- Add another larger bag to cover the main bag and make slits and holes again with a knife. Keep your double-covered spawn at a mildly cool or lukewarm temperature between 18C-28C and keep misting as in step 3. By the end of the first week, you may see signs of small growth.
- Keep misting for a total course of 3 weeks. This is the time where most growth occurs. Once your mushroom fruits are large enough, carefully cut with a sharp knife to harvest them.
This mushroom’s actual medicinal properties have not yet been proved by official studies, but there is some evidence suggesting that they are beneficial for your health. People have traditionally used them for treating the following:
- Digestive problems, such as ulcers, heartburn, etc
- Cancers of the digestive system
- Nervous system problems and serious nervous system disorders such as dementia, ataxia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Lion’s mane mushrooms specifically contain two compounds with potential nerve regeneration properties: hericenones and erinacines. These work synergistically to repair damaged brain and nervous system nerves and so they can be incredibly useful for treating disorders like Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. Some evidence also suggests that they can be used for treating autism, depression and anxiety.
Also, because of their anti-inflammatory properties, Lion’s mane mushrooms can be used to prevent the onset of diabetes, heart diseases and autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia and lupus.
One question that is sometimes asked is “is Lion’s mane mushroom psychoactive?”, and the answer is ‘no’ since this mushroom does not contain psilocybin or other hallucinogenic compounds.
How To Cook Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a culinary treat since their texture, taste and aroma resembles that of seafood and especially squid and jellyfish. Therefore, you can cook it pretty much in any way you would cook seafood from stir-fried to grilled.
You may also add it to pasta, rice, pizza, stews and soups with vegetables, chicken, seafood or red meat. Dried lion’s mane mushroom as an ingredient is available online. A simple yet delicious Lion’s mane mushroom recipe to try out is given below:-
Cheesy & Garlicky Baked Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Recipe
- 2 large Lion’s mane cut in half
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup cheddar cheese
- Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and rub with the minced garlic. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.
- Bake at 400F/200C for 15 to 18 minutes. The mushrooms may still keep some of their crunch but if you want them to be more tender, bake for another 5 minutes.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a unique and interesting type of mushroom that are well worth investigating. Not only do they look and taste good, but they may benefit your health too. An added bonus is that you can easily grow them at home if you wish either with or without a grow kit.
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