Oyster: Pleurotus ostreatus
Oyster mushrooms are saprophytes, (fungi that live on dead or decaying organic matter) that can be found in the woods growing on the sides of trees, stumps or fallen logs. This mushroom has an elongated cap, often fluted at the end; a shape suggestive of its shellfish counterpart. Widely cultivated indoors today, oysters come in pastel designer colors from pink to yellow, purple and blue. Terrafunga grows blue oyster mushrooms on beech logs outdoors that give them a superior flavor and enhance their health benefits.
Oysters have a longer shelf life than most mushrooms and are a great substitute for the common mushroom varieties used in recipes. Their subtle, delicate flavor has notes of seafood and they are particularly tasty cooked in cream sauces. They take on a bacon flavor when roasted with olive oil and are delicious brushed with butter and broiled. If using them in the dehydrated form, they do not need to be reconstituted in water but rather added directly to soups and sauces near the end of cooking time. As with most mushrooms, oysters should never be eaten raw but cooked completely to get the best flavor and nutritional benefits.
Oyster mushrooms have long been used in Chinese medicine for their numerous health benefits and immunostimulating properties. The mycelium contains a compound known as pleuromutilin that has the capability of absorbing several bacteria including Salmonella, E. Coli and Staph. They also contain ergothioneine, a unique antioxidant that shows promise with such diseases as Alzheimer’s, breast and colon cancers as well as heart disease. Oysters are high in protein, B Vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium and copper and contain ergosterol, an organic molecule that turns into Vitamin D when exposed to ultra violet light (essential for calcium absorption). These extraordinary mushrooms can help lower cholesterol, boost immunity, and regulate blood pressure, control hypertension, diabetes and obesity and have a positive effect on a host of other health conditions.
Source: Canadian Journal of Botany, 1988, 66(12): 2505-2510, 10.1139/b88-340, Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world. International Journal of Oncology, http://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/33/6/1307, humane living http://humanelivingnet.net/2013/12/18/opening-up-to-oyster-mushrooms/