Oysters, sadly, are not very good at this time of year. Otherwise I would be eating as many Pacific oysters as possible while I was here in Olympia. But oyster mushrooms are apparently in season. According to foraging expert ‘Wildman’ Steve Brill, the oyster mushroom “lives up to its name—it looks, smells, and tastes like oysters.” Wikipedia points out that the name probably just derives from the fungi’s shape, rather than flavor.
Well, I guess they resemble oysters in a very general sense, but the taste was nothing like oysters at all. But they were delicious, with a delicate mushroom flavor that developed beautifully in a hot saute pan with butter, salt, pepper, and a little minced green onion. A final deglaze with white wine made the sauteed oyster mushrooms a perfect topping for thin slices of toasted baguette.
I’d like to try more kinds of mushrooms. Exotic mushrooms are typically so expensive, though, that I usually balk and just go with the regular cheap varieties instead (i.e. button, cremini, and portobello). These oyster mushrooms were $8 per pound, which seems fine for a semi-special treat. But I’d be interested in hearing whether people think porcinis and maitakes and chanterelles and other expensive types are really worth the price. Generally, I find myself unwilling to take the plunge to find out (at least, until I take the time to learn how to forage them myself).