Oyster mushrooms do not taste like oysters but rather get their name from their resemblance to the shellfish. These mushrooms are among the most abundant of wild mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms can be found throughout the year, most often on the trunks of dead trees.
They are the third largest cultivated mushroom. China, the world leader in Oyster production, contributes nearly 85% of the total world production of about a million tonnes.
Oyster mushrooms are grown in bags of composted sawdust. The bags are sterilized, then inoculated with mushroom spawn (seed) placed inside the bag.
A characteristic of oyster mushrooms is that they have an eccentric (off-center) stem or sometimes even no stem at all and are very likely the most perishable of mushrooms. They must be kept between 1 and 4 degrees C.
Their color can vary slightly depending on variety, from pale gray, to light beige, and sometimes pink or yellow. Oyster Mushrooms are similar to the Chanterelle with a more delicate flavor and coloring.
They have a subtle flavor and while very popular in Asian dishes can be used in just about any dish that calls for mushrooms. Mature oyster mushrooms are considerably larger and will be chewier but tend to be sweeter and have more flavor.
Oyster mushrooms have been revered for thousands of years as both a food and a medicine in both Eastern and mid-European cultures. They are rich in protein, vitamin C, niacin, folic acid and potassium. The protein content varies between 1.6 to 2.5 percent.
They also contain most of the mineral salts required by the human body. Their niacin content is about ten times higher than any other vegetables and the folic acid in these mushrooms helps to cure anemia.
Oyster mushrooms are suitable for people with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes due to their low sodium/potassium ratio, starch, fat and calorific value. They are also are a natural source of statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs. Studies have shown that they typically contain 0.4% to 2.7% statins.