Lately, one of my favorite forests has been flush with oyster mushrooms. So that I can store them long-term, I’ve been drying them with a food dehydrator.
In this video, you’ll see some of the identifying traits common to oyster mushrooms. I’ll also offer some harvesting and field-cleaning tips.
Oyster Mushroom Basics
There are many kinds of oyster mushrooms. In the wild, they commonly range in color from whitish-cream to tan to brown. But, if you purchase oyster mushroom-growing kits, you’ll see vibrant blue, gold and even pink oysters.
Nevertheless, oyster mushrooms do share some traits. They:
- grow on non-coniferous wood. (And, no, you won’t find them growing directly out of soil.)
- are usually fairly large and have a thick, rubbery texture. Take a whiff and you might also catch a hint of licorice.
- grow year-round, but they’re more common in the fall.
- may have no stalk at all or, more likely, they’ll have a very short, stubby stalk. (Also, it will be off-center from the mushroom’s cap.)
- have gills that are thin and white. They also run down the length of the short stalk, if one is present.
- produce spore prints that are white to pale lilac.
Harvesting & Cleaning
Ask an experienced mushroom collector to help you confirm your mushroom ID. Once you’re certain about your find? Use a sharp knife to remove the mushroom from its host wood. (And don’t disturb the delicate mycelium living beneath the surface!)
I like to carry my foraged oyster mushrooms in mesh produce bags. These help spread the mushrooms’ spores, and this could mean even more mushrooms later.
To field-clean mushrooms, use your knife’s tip to gently scrape off any debris. Also, look closely for insect activity.
It’s easy to shoo away a stray beetle. But, if a mushroom contains insect larvae or eggs, leave it behind. That goes for mushrooms beginning to liquify or yellow, too.
Before drying, cut your oyster mushrooms into uniformly thin sections. I sliced off and halved my stems. Then I halved or quartered the remaining caps, depending on their size.
Although high temperatures reduce overall drying time, a slow-and-steady 115 degrees F is better. Dehydrate for several hours at this temperature to preserve flavor and nutrients.
Once your mushrooms are dry and have cooled completely, pack them into clean, dry, airtight containers. Last but not least? Carefully label with mushroom type, as well as your harvest and packing dates.