A big blizzard was supposed to come in today, but as of right now, 9:30 p.m., it’s still raining steadily. That’s good, since we are in the throes of drought, but the chance for a white Christmas is dwindling. Our original forecast of up to a foot of snow is probably now more like a couple of inches of white stuff. And that made my hoped-for snowy outing this afternoon a video bust.
But there’s always a surprise when you go outdoors. And today, it was a delicious find – oyster mushrooms on the base of a cottonwood tree. I’m no serious mycologist, and I shy away from most mushroom species as something to eat. But some kinds are safe and tasty, and the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, fits that bill.
This mushroom is fan-shaped and light colored, and it grows in cool fall temperatures especially on cottonwood and willow trees. It’s been years since I’ve found a mess fresh enough and big enough to eat, but today, in the rain and wind, there they were. They were on a route I drive every day, and they weren’t there yesterday. They simply popped out in fans big as your hand in the perfect conditions on a rare fall soaker. The book says they’re common up through November, but here it is right on the winter equinox, and they made their appearance.
The good thing about December mushrooms is no bugs. The flesh was fresh and meaty, with a strong and pleasant mushroom smell. I cut them while trying to hold a large umbrella in a 35-mph north wind, so it was kind of a one-handed harvest. I left a few, but got enough for some good eating.
Most say to cook this eminently-edible mushroom by cutting in strips, dipping in egg and cornmeal, and then frying in butter. I’ve eaten them that way, and for sure, I’m no anti-fry kind of guy. But on a cold winter day, I think I’ll make a big scratch mushroom soup. They just smell that kind of good.