Consider the oyster mushroom

The light colored oyster mushroom stands out against the bark of an aspen.

The fleeting oyster mushroom season is here. In early June I start scanning the Aspen groves for a flash these luminous, pale fungi which grow in layers like shelves off the tree trunks. It is usually a week or even three after I start looking that I spot the first ones. We go to collect, and are always dismayed at the many that have been chewed by slugs, or are brown at the edges, or are home to a colony of tiny, very happy, black beetles. No matter how diligently I look, and how early I start looking, many have gone by before we get there. Oyster mushrooms, pleurotus ostreatus, are pretty prolific in Maine though, and so while we may miss some, we always have enough for us, and enough to share. This is one mushroom I do not like to freeze. They are delicate, mild, and best eaten or prepared right after gathering. We also have gotten fussy about what we harvest. Years ago, when excited by the discovery of these mushrooms growing in near our house, we picked them even when a bit past prime. They weren’t bad, but we had to shake out bugs, and trim off brown edges. We are wiser now, and leave those to the slugs. We collect just young, ivory-colored specimens with smooth round edges. Their flowering corresponds with the end of the asparagus in our garden. We greet the oyster mushrooms and say farewell to the asparagus with a rich risotto.

A clump of young oyster mushrooms

There are an overwhelming number of mushroom risotto recipes out there, but not wanting to be sucked into an hour of comparing, I tried the first simple, clear recipe I found. It was a great choice. I used our freshly gathered oyster mushrooms instead of portobello and white, and added our asparagus about ten minutes before the rice was finished. My husband was given add stock and stir directions, I grabbed a shower, and eight hours after we harvested the oyster mushrooms, we were sitting in the back yard with chilled white wine and a creamy flavorful wild mushroom risotto—and that’s this week’s Sunday night supper in Maine.

Summer supper in Maine

If you have no source for collecting, try your local farmer’s market, and celebrate Maine’s June bounty—the delicate oyster mushroom.

Mushroom Risotto from allrecipes.com

Always respect private property, and never eat anything unless you are 100% certain it is safe.

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.