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Mushroom Profiles - Blue Oyster & Chestnuts

Meet the mushrooms! The Mushroom Profiles is a series of posts where we talk about the different mushroom varieties that we grow in our farm. In prior posts, we talked about the Lion's Mane (hericium erinaceus), the Reishi (ganoderma multipileum), and the Chaga (inonotus obliquus), which are considered medicinal (or adaptogenic) because of their health benefits. In this post, we will focus on the Blue Oyster (pleurotus ostreatus) and the Chestnut (pholiota adiposa) mushrooms. These are considered gourmet because they're used mostly for culinary purposes. They're both delicious & nutritious, but as we will see, they also contain some special compounds that could yield significant health benefits.

Blue Oyster (Pleurotus Ostreatus)

The oyster mushroom is the common name for Pleurotus Ostreatus. an edible mushroom which is quite popular for foraging or cultivating. There are several other notable fungi in the genus Pleurotus, such as the pink oyster (pleurotus djamor) and the golden oyster (pleurotus citrinopileatus), but we will cover those in a later edition of the blog. Today, it's all about the blue oysters, and we will discuss some of their most fascinating features, as well as some recommendations for cooking them.

The blue oyster mushroom has a wide distribution and can be found in various climates around the world. It is a saprotroph, meaning that it feeds on decaying organic matter (especially trees), and this benefits the forest by returning vital elements and minerals back into the soil in a form that is useful to other plants and organisms. Oyster mushrooms are also carnivores, preying on nematodes by using a toxin that paralyzes them for ingestion. It gets its name from the resemblance of the mushroom caps to the shell of an oyster. Although they do look distinctly blue when they are very small (during their pinning phase), fully mature specimens are usually white or grey in color. This mushroom has several toxic lookalikes, so always be very careful when foraging in the wild.

Blue Oysters are super resilient and the mycelium is quite aggressive. Mycelium from oyster mushrooms has been known to consume some trash and even cigarette butts! The colonization period (the time it takes for the mycelium to fully spread throughout the substrate) for this mushroom variety is one of the quickest, and they don't require much care during cultivation, which has surely contributed to their growing popularity. The mycelium has also been used in some surprisingly innovative ways; it can be molded into furniture or even construction materials, making it a more sustainable alternative for many existing materials.

Blue Oysters have high levels of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other important nutrients. When cooking them, it's pretty hard to mess it up. Here at One Up, we're of the opinion that of all the gourmet mushroom varieties we grow, the oysters are the easiest to work with. The shape and size of the caps is usually quite convenient for cooking many different dishes, so we recommend sauteeing them in a pan with oil or butter and seasoning them to taste. From there, you can make a pasta, a stir fry, or a nice side dish to elevate any meal. If you want to make the mushrooms the star of your dish, you can also find many recipes and creative cooking ideas online.

Chestnut (Pholiota Adiposa)

Pholiota Adiposa, or as they're commonly known, Chestnuts, are cute yellow-brown mushrooms that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. The caps are scaly and grow on cylindrical stems in bunches. They can grow parasitically on live trees or as a saprotroph on dead wood, particularly from hardwood trees such as oaks. The name adiposa comes from the slimy appearance of the caps. In addition to being foraged in the wild, chestnut mushrooms are also cultivated commercially. They can be grown on a substrate of wood chips, straw, or a combination of both.

Like most gourmet mushrooms, they are a good source of essential nutrients, including vitamins (such as B vitamins) and minerals (like potassium and selenium). They also contain polysaccharides, which are complex sugars that are known to have antioxidant effects. Various specific polysaccharides isolated from pholiota adiposa have been shown to have anti-tumor effects in mice. It is believed that these anti-tumor abilities are linked with the antioxidant effects. Yet another compound produced by this mushroom is methyl gallate, which is also of interest for its medicinal properties. Methyl gallate is a phenolic compound with strong antioxidant properties and in some studies it has been shown to inhibit HIV. Although it is also found in certain plants, the chestnut mushroom is the first fungus from which methyl gallate has been extracted.

Now, on to the tasty part of the story! As their common name suggests, Chestnuts have a nutty earthy flavor which intensifies when cooked. The long stems are also edible and are a great source of fiber. When cooked properly they deliver a nice crisp bite. Chestnuts can be sauteed, grilled, roasted, or used in various dishes such as stir fries, soups, and pasta. They pair well with a variety of herbs and spices. One of our favorite things to do with chestnut mushrooms is put them on a pizza or in a pasta sauce. Another great option is using them for a breakfast omelette (with all the works, of course).

As you can see, chestnut mushrooms can be used in a variety of cuisines and dishes, adding depth of flavor and texture. They are valued for their ability to absorb and complement the flavors of the other ingredients, rather than taking up all the spotlight.

At this point you might be wondering: if these mushrooms are so healthy, why don't you use them to make a concentrated extract? And that is a great point. As we've seen, blue oyster and chestnut mushrooms are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, and they are quite nutritious even for superfood standards. But other mushrooms, such as the lion's mane, reishi, and chaga; have long been considered medicinal because they also contain special compounds and properties that carry additional health benefits. Oyster mushrooms are super high in beta-glucans and the chestnuts are particularly interesting because they contain megaglutenoids, but they are not as high as the others. For this reason, they are mostly consumed as food and not as dietary supplements.

We hope you've enjoyed learning about these marvelous mushrooms, and that you're feeling encouraged and inspired to grab some fresh mushrooms and try out some cooking ideas. If and when you do, send us a picture!

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