Chicken of the woods mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) are sometimes called sulphur shelf, crab-of-the-woods, or sulphur polypore.…
Wood mushrooms (scientific name Agaricus Silvicola) are an edible fungi species belonging in the Agaricus genus and are closely related to button mushrooms in terms of appearance and texture.
Wood mushrooms are a popular delicacy in Northern Europe and the U.K, however, in North America, there have been some incidents linking their consumption with mild allergic reactions, making their hunting and consumption less common compared to other similar species such as button mushrooms.
Where To Find Wood Mushrooms
Wood mushrooms grow across the U.K., Northern Europe and North America. Just like their name suggests, they grow on the ground of woodland regions and particularly in the middle of both deciduous and coniferous forests. Their peak season starts from late August extending to mid-November, although they can occasionally be spotted in the spring months as well.
Wood mushrooms are rarely spotted in large groups and you may find them typically in batches of 2-3 mushrooms scattered near trees or even alone.
How To Identify Them
Wood mushrooms have a fairly common appearance that resembles that of button mushrooms. Their cap is a creamy beige white with brownish-yellow stains when bruised. The cap diameter, when the mushroom matures stretches between 2.5 inches to 4 inches (6 to 10 cm) on average, even though larger diameters such as 5.5 inches (14 cm) can also be found. The cap begins to grow in a small button-like shape eventually becoming a flattened-out reverse umbrella shape when the mushroom reaches full maturity.
The mushroom has gills underneath its cap which are free and crowded and start from a beige white shade to a grey pink and finally a deep chocolate brown shade. The stem is long and thin with a bulbous base and bears the same color as that of the cap. The Wood mushroom spores, which are perhaps one of its most distinguishable features, are purplish-brown. Another aspect of Wood mushrooms is their slightly sweet and sharp anise smell.
The mushrooms could be mixed up with a couple of poisonous Agaricus species such as the Yellow Stainer (Agaricus Xanthodermis), or the Inky Mushroom (Agaricus moelleri). However, the first has deep yellow stains all over its cap, and the second has an ink-like smell which many consider unpleasant.
How To Grow Wood Mushrooms
Wood mushrooms are fairly easy to grow at home in small batches, following a typical mushroom spawn fertilization method (as with button mushrooms and other edible Agaricus species). Although finding a complete Wood mushroom growing kit can be difficult, you can find fresh Agaricus Silvicola spawn in large plant nurseries offline and in places like Etsy, eBay, Amazon and speciality mushroom sites. The key to successfully grow your Wood mushrooms is to get high-quality fresh spawn that has been fully sterilized to prevent moldiness and contamination.
Here is the basic process of growing Wood mushrooms, step-by-step:
- Get a medium yet deep level growing bed. Fill it with a 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of nutrient-rich soil. Keep in it a safe and dark place like a basement away from animals or other intruders. Make sure to ventilate the growing area well, and keep it slightly humid to encourage better growth.
- Sterilize your chosen substrate (e.g compost, sawdust or wood shavings) in hot water first and drain.
- Pour the sterilized substrate over the soil to a depth of around 2 inches (5 cm) in thickness, and spread evenly. Pour and spread the fresh Wood mushroom spawn on top of the two layers.
- Cover with a layer of plastic. Make small incisions with a knife or scissors to allow humidity to pass through.
- Spray the spawn using water spray 1-2 times a day (through the holes). Once you notice some signs of mushroom growth, reduce the frequency to 3-4 times a week.
- In most cases, some growth will occur in as little as 2 weeks. Full growth occurs in 1 to 1.5 months.
Wood mushrooms do not have any documented health/medicinal properties. This is due to the fact that there are no studies proving their medicinal value. However, as with all edible Agaricus species, they are considered to be good sources of protein and trace elements such as zinc, potassium, selenium and manganese, which are all highly antioxidant and anti-ageing nutrients that fight free radical damage and inflammation. They are also very low in calories and make excellent meal choices for those attempting to lose weight.
How To Cook Wood Mushrooms
Because of their slightly sweet and sharp anise smell and taste, Wood mushrooms are ideal for use in Asian dishes. You can also use them in popular dishes like pizzas, pasta, and salads. They are also great when grilled or stuffed and baked with a few other ingredients. If you have some big adult Wood mushrooms, here is a rich family and guest-friendly recipe that everyone will enjoy:-
Stuffed Wood mushrooms
- 6 large Wood mushrooms, gently wiped
- ⅓ cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 2 slices of bacon, thinly chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then drizzle the mushrooms with the olive oil (turn them upside down to resemble a bowl shape). Season with salt and pepper.
- Pre-bake the mushrooms in your oven’s grill for 10-12 minutes.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and evently fill the mushrooms with the stuffing mixture.
- Place back in the oven and grill for another 8-10 minutes.
Keep in mind that even though Wood mushrooms are considered edible, they might cause some mild allergic reactions in individuals with stomach problems or other sensitivities. For this reason, it’s best to avoid consuming large amounts of more than 3 mushrooms at a time.
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