Pleurotus - Oyster Mushrooms
These are my personal experiences harvesting, cleaning, freezing, dehydrating and cooking wild oyster mushrooms. These mushrooms are prolific in the Pacific Northwest and they can be found any time conditions are right for them all year long. Delicious and fairly easy to identify, there are many varieties including a late harvest oyster I'm particularly fond of.
In the field
When foraging for oyster mushrooms don't forget to look up! These beauties were about 9 feet off the ground. Oysters grow on trees and sometimes the trees are lying down where the mushrooms are easily harvested but sometimes they are quite high on a tree. This usually requires special equipment like a ladder or an extendable pole saw & tree pruner. We like to carry one specifically for these situations. A pole saw can be really handy. Also a long handled fishing net held by a second person could be useful for catching the fungi when it falls. Perhaps keeping it from shattering or out of a deep ravine. Consider using the net to pull the mushrooms from the tree if you can reach it this way.
While harvesting from a log that I can easily reach, I usually cut them off at the base leaving the bottom and all of it's dirt and debris on the log. By cleaning off as much debris as possible before placing the mushrooms in your basket or bag you will keep the gills nearly completely clean and this really helps to keep these mushrooms fresh longer and minimize your time while cleaning them later for cooking or preserving.
More to Come - This is a work in progress so check back for more recipes and mushroom adventures from our upcoming 2023 Spring mushroom Season!
We can't wait for this season to begin. The snow pack and rains we've had this winter are sure to bring us lots of fungi!
Cleaning Oyster Mushrooms
Oysters are easy to clean. Do not clean them with anything but a dry brush or towel until you are ready to cook or otherwise preserve them.
When you have them home, transfer them to a paper bag and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook or otherwise prepare them. They are quite happy hanging out like that for a few days. If they look like they are drying out, add a damp paper towel to the bag if you haven't got the time to prepare them in some way.
If you have older, larger specimen's check them closely for signs of insects and don't let them linger too long before processing. The insect eggs and larva may continue to develop and you could loose your beautiful mushrooms to an infestation.
When you are ready to prepare them, give them a quick brush with a soft bristled toothbrush under running water then set them out to dry until you are ready to finish preparing them.
This was one of my very favorite at home projects! I bought a block from a local mushroom grower and grew my own beautiful Oyster mushrooms. Not exactly wild but fun and delicious. Click on the title to read more about how you can grow your own oysters at home!
Dehydrating and Freezing Oyster Mushrooms
Oysters are easy to dehydrate. I use an Excalibur dehydrator and dry them after cleaning them. This usually takes 12 to 18 hours depending on size and quantity. I set the dehydrator on a fruit setting of about 135 degrees.
After they are sufficiently dried, I store them in canning jars in a cool dark place until I am ready to rehydrate them in warm water for 15 - 30 minutes before cooking. Save the liquid from rehydrating for use in your recipe if it calls for any liquid.
I also like to freeze them individually on sheet trays that I have lined with parchment paper. Be sure to cook them directly from frozen, do not thaw them. The texture when cooked from frozen is so close to fresh you would never know they were ever frozen.
After they are frozen, usually overnight, I put them in a freezer bag and I can retrieve only what I intend to cook at any given time.