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Pleurotus dryinus: scallop of the woods

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I found two mushrooms back in the middle of October—both growing singly out of clefts on standing maples near my home in Vermont.  I eventually concluded both were specimens of Pleurotus dryinus (veiled oyster).  It was hard to be sure.  Most characteristics fit, but all the descriptions I found emphasized significant hairiness or fuzziness on both stem and cap—mine were relatively smooth.  The one with the smaller, rounder cap was entirely hairless, while the one with the larger, broader cap had areas of velvet on the stem and scaliness on the cap.  After finding no other likely candidates, I settled on P. dryinus, concluding that the degree of fuzziness must be more variable than descriptions I had found implied.

Pleurotus dryinus is generally considered an inferior edible to the more common, widely-appreciated members of the genus Pleurotus—and is described as tough and sometimes unpalatably hairy.  The caps of my specimens felt leathery—reminding me of young birch polypores.  My expectations were low.  The stems were indeed tough—similar to the stems of shiitakes, which some people discard, but I have grown to like—tough but chewable with persistence.  The caps, however, were not at all tough when cooked—they had a tender-chewiness that I found very pleasant.  The flavor was mild but quite savory, with a noticeable sweetness—I found the overall effect delectable.  I exclaimed to my wife as we were eating one, “this is as good as scallops!” (we both love scallops)—she agreed that it was remarkably tasty, especially considering we were eating something I had just brought out of the nearby forest.

It is possible that the weather conditions here in Vermont last month conspired to produce unusually bald and tasty specimens of Pleurotus dryinus, but I will certainly be on the lookout for these in the future.  If anybody has a suggestion for alternative ID, or experience with P. dryinus, I would be very interested.










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