Oyster mushrooms are edible fungi that usually grow on logs or stems of hardwood trees. They are among the widely consumed mushrooms worldwide. The name oyster was derived from its short stem and oyster-shaped caps. In some types, the stem is entirely absent.
Typically, these mushrooms come in greyish-brown and light grey but can also be found in other colours like pink and yellow. Despite being found in hardwood logs, their commercial cultivation has skyrocketed in recent years because of their health benefits.
It is easier to grow oyster mushrooms as compared to other species. Even beginners can successfully cultivate them because of their tolerance to growing conditions, a wide variety of potential substrates, and their relatively fast growth rate.
What is the taste of oyster mushrooms?
As the name suggests, oyster mushrooms have a smooth texture similar to that of oysters and some claim that they have a slight seafood flavour. Once they are incorporated into dishes, the flavours may be undetectable.
Oyster mushrooms are found in large numbers during significant weather changes. But for commercial growers, there is no specific time to grow them. So they are available all year round.
In this article, you will learn about the different types of oyster mushrooms available. Let's get started;
Here are the eight types of Oyster Mushrooms
Tree Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
These are the most common oyster mushrooms, especially in North America. When compared to Shiitake mushrooms, they are slightly more tender and mild. They also have a woodsy and sweet taste.
Tree oysters, like other types of oyster mushrooms, are found growing in logs of hardwoods. They are relatively easy to grow and can take about four to six months to fruit. You can still harvest them when still young but the yields will be relatively low.
This type of oyster can be grown in several substrates like straws and supplemented sawdust but the yield is higher in supplemented sawdust when all conditions are kept constant. Tree oysters are common among beginners because they are easy to grow and exceptionally delicious.
When cooked, tree oysters are a great source of proteins, vitamin D, and other useful nutrients. If mixed with other dishes, their umami can dominate a meal.
Tree oysters can be subdivided into various types depending on their particular growth characteristics. Here are the subdivisions:
- Winter White - a pure white variant that provides abundant fruits from 13°C to 24°C
- Monster Blue - a choice edible mushroom fruiting from 10°C to 26°C
- Tan oyster - a tan coloured variant that provides abundant caps from 10°C to 26°C
- Queensland White - a native Aussie variant that has a wide ranging fruiting temperature from 16°C to 30°C (when grown on the cooler side, the caps are a tan colour)
- Winter Pearl - pearlescent cap
- Summer Pearl - pearlescent cap
- Blue Shimeji - a smaller Oyster mushroom that has steel blue coloured caps and fruits from 13°C to 24°C (this is not a true Shimeji which would be of the Hypsizygus genus)
- Grey Oyster - a very attractive medium to large oyster mushroom, grown widely for market in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, that fruits from 10°C to 24°C
- Ulmarius - a superfast grower that produces hemispheric white-greyish-brown caps that fruits from 10°C to 24°C
Pink Oysters (Pleurotus djamor)
As the name suggests, pink oysters have a more ruffled and bright pink appearance. However, the colour is not maintained when cooked, and it may fade completely. These types of oysters are more rigid and woody and may also have a pungent smell.
These oysters are fast colonisers, vigorous growers and heavy yielding. Unfortunately, it is rare to find them on grocery store shelves because of their relatively short shelf life. Another issue is their pink colour; as mentioned, the colour fades when cooking and may also fade with age.
When young, the pink colour is more pronounced and starts fading or whitening with age. On the shape, they typically have a relatively flat cap that may also curl with age. Usually, you can find them growing in large bouquets or clusters.
The deepest pink colour is on the underside of the mushrooms with white spores. Depending on the growing area and conditions, the mushrooms may be delicate and thin or thick and meaty. Their natural habitat is on tropical hardwoods, and the pink oysters prefer high humidity and warm temperatures.
Note that pink oysters are sensitive to cold environments. This may make them die if refrigerated. They are aggressive fruiterers and are likely to fruit in the presence of agar.
Pink oysters can grow in straw or on other substrates like supplemented sawdust. When grown on the sawdust blocks, the fruits tend to be relatively more significant than when grown on other substrates. You can also find these mushrooms grown on PF cakes.
If you are growing the pink oysters at home, harvest them before the spores drop. This is indicated by the curling up of caps. Within a short period, pink oysters can cover your room with pink spores. While harvesting, cut the mushrooms in whole clusters to protect the log or block for future flushes.
We already said the shelf life of these mushrooms is short, and it is perfect when eaten while fresh. If you risk storing them in a fridge, it will only be a couple of days before they take a urine scent. Despite losing their colour when cooking, pink oysters can serve as a good substitute for bacon because they take on that flavour. Also, note that it may taste bitter if not thoroughly cooked.
Golden Oysters (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)
The golden oyster mushrooms, also called yellow oysters, are easy to grow and exceptionally beautiful. Because of that, they are popular choices among home cultivators. Their yield is considered relatively small, but golden oysters tend to grow in bright bouquets.
Just like the pink oysters, you will rarely see the golden oysters in local groceries because of their short shelf life and delicate features. Although they grow fast, it isn't easy to produce them on a commercial scale.
Their growth conditions of choice are similar to those of pink oysters; high humidity and warm temperatures. Yellow oysters typically form multiple clusters, but their fruits are significantly sampler than other oyster types. Their notable advantage is the high number of fruits produced.
Because of their thin and delicate caps, golden oysters require gentle harvesting. This also applied to their storage and is likely to go bad with excessive handling and transportation. You can refrigerate them but only for a couple of days.
Golden oysters usually grow on hardwood trees such as beech, elm, and oak. It is believed that this species originated from regions of Asia before spreading to America.
Again like pink oysters, the yellow oysters can grow well in supplemented sawdust or straw. Despite the yield in the two looks similar, those fruits from supplemented sawdust are relatively thicker and less delicate. The fruits will still be small and light.
It is best if you harvest the yellow oysters in the first flush. Instead of harvesting or picking off individual mushrooms, you should remove the entire bouquets from the base. You can use a sharp knife to make your work easier. This minimises handling that may make them go bad quickly.
Commercial cultivation of golden oysters is a challenge because of many reasons already mentioned above. They are easy to grow but delicate with a short shelf life, making them difficult to transport and store effectively.
Golden oysters can be added to any meal. However, they can be bitter if undercooked. But when thoroughly cooked, they have a nutty flavour. Cook them until they are crispy, and the brittle caps act as a substitution for bacon bits. They also lose their bright golden or yellow colour during cooking.
Blue Oysters (Pleurotus columbinus)
These are unique types of oyster mushrooms that you will enjoy seeing grow. Blue oysters are easy to grow, making them popular choices for beginners. The mushrooms have bright blue colours when young and begin fading or turning grey while they mature.
The blue oysters proliferate and may double in size each day. They are among the types of oysters that can be grown outdoors. Unlike the rest of the mushroom species, blue oysters have relatively high fresh air requirements.
Like typical Pleurotus species, blue oysters grow in large clusters or heavy bouquets. The shape and size vary significantly depending on the area and growing conditions. When grown where they can access sufficient fresh air, blue oysters can do exceptionally well.
If grown in areas with high carbon dioxide, these mushrooms tend to have a thick and long stem with sparingly small caps. Because of their high spore load, they are likely to fill your grow room with beautiful blue and thick spore load.
When young, the blue colour is deep as aforementioned but starts to turn grey after some time. The fruit is thick and versatile for culinary uses.
These types of oyster are common in the falls and springs growing on hardwood log stumps and trees. You can also grow them in several substrates. For example, they do well on pasteurised straw logs or supplemented sawdust blocks. Blue oyster mushrooms can also be grown on waste paper, sugar cane, coffee ground, grass and other waste industrial products.
How do you harvest Blue Oyster Mushrooms and what are their yields?
Like most mushrooms, harvest blue oyster mushrooms by cutting or picking the entire clusters. If picked as a cluster and handled delicately, the mushrooms can be stored for a more extended period. They can also be stored in the fridge for a longer time than pink and golden oyster mushrooms.
While in the fridge, blue oyster mushrooms tend to continue growing, and this is undesirable. Mycelium starts to grow from the stems. To avoid all these, blue oysters can be dried before storing them, and they can stay for an extended period.
When cooked, these mushrooms have a unique and delicious flavour. They can be used in several dishes such as pasta and soups. The stems may be a little chewy, and it is best if you avoid them in most dishes.
Phoenix Oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius)
Also known as the Indian Oyster Mushroom and Lung Oyster Mushroom, these mushrooms are a true definition of a summer oyster with beautiful lilac spore prints. Phoenix oysters prefer warm temperatures and can easily be distinguished from the white-spores oysters. In terms of appearance, they are exceptionally white from the stem to the cap.
It usually grows on conifer wood, but the fruits are relatively small in size. This type prefers to grow in hardwoods but can also do well in pasteurised agricultural waste or cotton. When cooked, this mushroom has a soft, sweet flavour reminiscent and treat to eat.
King Oysters (Pleurotus eryngii)
Oyster mushrooms are available in a variety of shapes, colours, and sizes. One type that stands out is the king oyster mushrooms. They deserve the name because of their unique characteristics like culinary flexibility and stately appearance.
The king oyster, unlike other oyster varieties, does not produce shelf-like formations. Instead, it produces mushrooms with round caps and defined stems. With appropriate growth conditions, king oysters can grow significantly to the extent of a single fruit weighing over one pound.
When young, the caps are curled but unroll with age and become flat. If grown outdoors where they access lots of light and fresh air, king oysters develop large dark caps with small stems. But when there is insufficient light and air, primarily when grown indoors, they develop tiny caps with tall fat stems.
These oysters are usually found on the roots of hardwood trees. Most often, they emerge from underneath the soil. They are among the types found in most places around the globe.
King oyster does well in supplemented hardwood sawdust. They can also grow on straws, but the yield is relatively reduced. Consequently, cultivators have reported that king oysters may have a better texture and longer shelf life when grown on hardwood sawdust.
When do you harvest King Oyster Mushrooms?
When it comes to king oysters, there is no exact time when you harvest them. Younger mushrooms tend to have a better flavour or texture, but the yields are relatively low.
As mentioned earlier, king oysters are the unique type of oyster that we have around. For example, unlike other oysters, king oyster stems are suitable for culinary uses. So it is better to allow the stems to grow large enough when harvesting the mushrooms, cut at the base of the stem but be careful not to destroy the top of the block.
When cooked, king oysters have a bold, unique taste and a thick meaty texture. Because of the thick texture, king oysters can be grilled on a BBQ.
Abalone Mushroom (Pleurotus cystidiosus)
The Abalone Mushroom, also known as the Maple Oyster Mushroom and Miller's Oyster Mushroom, is an oyster mushroom that typically grows on red maple, eastern cottonwood, sweetgum and Asian oaks. These are normally found in eastern and southeastern United States, Taiwan and South Africa. Consequently, they are mushroom that likes temperatures up to 30°C to fruit.
The caps of the Abalone Mushroom are a small 2-5cm broad and cream to dingy white in colour. Aromatically, they are musty.
In Australia, the Abalone Mushroom is not easy to find.
Tarragon Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus euosmus)
The Tarragon Oyster Mushroom is characterised by its peculiar aroma similar to tarragon, the herb. These mushrooms are native to the British Isles and refer elm stumps and logs and prefer temperatures of up to 27°C to fruit.
The caps range up to 15cm across and are coloured a light beige to dingy brown. Aromatically, they are sweet, pleasant and slightly anise-like. Clusters are of five to ten mushrooms are common.
Like the Abalone Mushroom, the Tarragon Oyster Mushroom is not easily found in Australia.