Oyster—the pearl of the mushroom world

Common Names

The oyster mushroom is so named because it looks, smells, and even tastes a bit like an oyster. The scientific name is Pleurotus ostreatus, but there are other species of oyster mushrooms including Pleurotus eryngii (king oyster) and Pleurotus pulmonarius (phoenix, or Indian oyster). Varieties include the golden, blue, tamogitake, salmon, and flamingo oyster mushrooms.

Characteristics

The fan-shaped oyster mushroom grows in clusters and in a variety of colors, including some unusual hues. The oyster mushroom is actually pink in color and has been grown on hardwood logs and stumps by native Asians for centuries. Golden oysters are beige to bright yellow with white stems; blue oysters are gray to a light blue in color. Oyster mushrooms are a bit fragile, and should be handled carefully.

Habitats

Different varieties of the oyster mushroom prefer different habitats. The phoenix oyster likes conifer wood (pine trees and evergreens), while the golden oyster can be found growing in Asian hardwood forests and around trees such as oak, elm, beech, and poplar. The pink oyster grows on tropical and sub-tropical hardwoods such as palm, rubber, and bamboo trees. The king can be found on and around the roots of many hardwood trees.

Natural cultivation methods

Golden.Cultivate on elm logs or stumps. They can also be grown on sugarcane bagasse, sawdust, straw, and cottonseed hulls.

King oyster.Grows on vertical logs outdoors, tree stumps, and in mounds of straw.

Phoenix.The phoenix oyster is easily cultivated on outdoor logs, especially alder, cottonwood, poplar, oak, maple, elm, aspen, and some conifers.

Fruiting cycles and yield potentials

Golden.You should see two flushes (crops), appearing 10-14 days apart. Biological efficiency (the percentage of substrate mass is converted into mushroom mass) is 25-75%.

Pink.You can expect two flushes, 7-10 days apart, and biological efficiency of 75-150%.

King.Expect two flushes to occur 14 days apart within a 45-day period. Potential yield is one pound of mushrooms per five pounds of sterilized sawdust with biological efficiency of 90%.

Phoenix. You should see three flushes, occurring every 7-10 days and a biological efficiency of 100-200%

Substrates

Golden

  • Pasteurized wheat
  • Cottonseed hulls
  • Sorghum
  • Milo

Pink

  • Hardwood sawdust
  • Cereal straw
  • Corn waster
  • Coffee residue
  • Sugarcane bagasse

King

  • Hardwoods
  • Wheat straw
  • Cottonseed hulls

(Using cottonseed meal enhances yields)

Phoenix—Highly adaptive to various substrates, including

  • Cereal straws
  • Hardwood sawdust
  • Cornstalks
  • Sugarcane bagasse
  • Coffee residue
  • Pulp mill waster
  • Alfafa hay

Medicinal and nutritional properties

  • High in protein, low in fat
  • High in iron
  • Joint and muscle relaxation
  • Prevention of high cholesterol
  • Potential pulmonary emphysema cure (golden)
  • Treatment of cancer
  • Treatment of lumbago and numbing in limbs
  • Vein strengthening

Cooking with oyster mushrooms

Golden oyster mushrooms are great when broken into small pieces and stir-fried in hot oil. They are bitter and tangy when raw, but impart a cashew-like flavor when crispy. King oysters are also delicious stir-fried, adding a nutty flavor and chewy texture that goes well with lamb, fish, and pork dishes, as well as Italian fare. Phoenix oyster mushrooms also complement lamb, fish, and pork dishes well, and can be used in vegetarian and stir-fry dishes.