Scarcity is only a perception, one that I find is eradicated easily by stepping into the forest. Regardless of what the holiday marketers tell you, abundance is all around us … and this abundance requires no down payment. This is what the late fall oyster mushroom has taught me.
No matter the season, no matter the weather … local food is available. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s December and fairly cold here in Pittsburgh, and local food is just a fallen tree away.
The late fall oyster mushroom (Panellus serotinus) is a cold-weather fungus traditionally eaten in Japan, where it is known as Mukitake. It has a wide distribution in the United States, and is very common in Pennsylvania. It’s a tough mushroom, one that requires slow, long cooking for best texture and flavor. Still, to get wild nutrition and medicine into your body, the late fall oyster mushroom can easily satisfy that need.
Speaking of medicine, research has shown that Panellus serotinus possesses anti-tumor and immuno-modulating activities, like many medicinal mushrooms (Kim et al., 2012). This is primarily due to its concentration of beta-glucans, which can easily be extracted through prolonged hot water decoctions (teas, soups). The late fall oyster mushroom, as shown in animal studies, also displays protection against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and dyslipidemia (Inoue et al., 2013).
Not bad for a log-decomposer who doesn’t ask for much.
Look for this mushroom on dead hardwood logs and branches, and though its season is slowly dwindling, fruiting bodies are still plentiful this time of year. Colors vary – I’ve seen blends of grey, orange, yellow, and green. Look-alikes include the mock oyster (Phyllotopsis nidulans), though its cap is mostly orange, and its smell is rather unpleasant. Panellus serotinus also resembles the classic oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), though the latter rarely contains shades of yellow/orange, can be much bigger, and is a choice edible anyway.
Keep an eye out for late fall oyster mushrooms on your next trek through the woods. And tell them Adam sent ya…