True mushroom fanatics rejoice at the coming of spring. While many mushrooms are cultivated year-round, several choice species pop up only once or twice a year, in spring or fall. That's when you'll find mushroom foragers in the wild, hunting their elusive prey by the base of trees or on decomposing trunks.
Even if you don't forage, wild spring mushrooms are plentiful at your farmers' market or neighborhood specialty store. Depending on where you live, you might find some or all of the following springtime mushroom varieties.
1. Morel Mushrooms
The grand dame of spring mushrooms, morels are available fresh for only a few fleeting weeks in spring. Prized by chefs for their rich, smoky flavor, morels are delightful simply sautéed or dipped in batter and fried. Try this recipe for Simple Fried Morel Mushrooms, and find more recipes for fresh morels.
2. Porcini Mushrooms
In the West, spring porcini (also called cepe or king bolete) deserves a light hand in the kitchen. With an intense, mushroom-y flavor and meaty texture, fresh porcini is great grilled or broiled. This recipe for White Pizza with Porcinis is the perfect meal for a mild spring evening. Add broccoli or arugula to the topping, if you wish. Find more recipes for porcini mushrooms.
3. Wood Ear Mushrooms
4. Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms have nothing to do with oysters except that they're also gray and sought-after! Delicate and tender, oyster mushrooms cook quickly and are perfect for quick stir-fries and simple soups. Or why not sauté them to top greens in this Warm Mushroom Salad.
5. Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms
Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms are prolific in Northeastern regions of the U.S. In Japan, where they are very popular, they are called maitake. Unlike other mushrooms that have a squishy texture, these light and feathery specimens might even win over mushroom-haters. Their hearty flavor is best showcased in simple preparations like risotto and egg dishes. Try hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in this recipe for Eggs Florentine.
Choosing Wild Mushrooms
You'll find many tips for choosing, cooking and storing mushrooms, but when it comes to wild mushrooms, read on:
- Wild mushrooms are seasonal, which affects both their availability and price. When you see some at a good price, don't hesitate. Buy them!
- Wild mushrooms grow in cold and wet climates and may be waterlogged. Choose mushrooms that are firm and slightly moist but not soggy.
- When choosing porcini, choose ones that are closed, tight and have white --
not brown -- gills on their undersides.
- Wild mushrooms grow in dirt, so holes most likely indicate an insect infestation. If you find porcini with holes, ask someone to cut them in half to see if it goes all the way through.
- Some mushrooms are highly toxic, so always be sure of the seller's credentials when buying wild mushrooms.
- If you do forage, proper mushroom identification could save your life, so please go with a trained guide or do your research!