I walked down to my local farmers’ market on Saturday morning and saw a new stand set up about halfway down the street. It was a table loaded down with boxes of mushrooms – some of the usual white buttons and cremini were there, but also one or two I hadn’t ever seen before. One was the sponge-like lion’s mane and the other was the hen of the woods.
Have you ever had or seen these?
The lion’s mane is in the top left part of the my photo, just above the pink oyster mushrooms. It looks a little like a white shag rug and feels a little sponge-like. Pull it apart rather than slicing it with a knife.
The hen of the woods is brownish and is in the top right of the photo. I’m not exactly sure why it’s called what it’s called, perhaps because it looks like a puff ball of little feathers. You know when chicks fluff out their tiny feathers? Well, that’s kind of what it reminds me of. Looking at it, I thought that cleaning it of any dirt and bugs would be challenging. But, a close look revealed that it was completely clean – cleaner, actually, than the everyday mushrooms I see at the grocery store. I have no idea whether that’s just the nature of this type of mushroom, or whether the mushroom hunter/seller went to the trouble of cleaning them before bringing them to market. One word of warning: this type of mushroom can be very expensive. I didn’t think of asking how much it was before buying it. You should. It cost me $15 for 1lb. By the way, one pound isn’t a whole lot. In fact, that much hen of the woods fit easily into one hand. It was really good, though.
The mushroom seller told me that both the lion’s mane and the hen of the woods have a mild flavour whereas the pink oyster mushrooms have a bit of a lobster taste.
With that information and a much lighter wallet, I headed home and fired up the frying pan. I heated up a pat of butter over medium-high heat, tossed in a whole garlic clove and all the mushrooms (pulled apart by hand) followed by a pinch of salt. Of course, after I had tossed them all in, it occurred to me that perhaps that wasn’t quite the best thing to do. All three of these mushrooms were different in texture, thickness, and probably cooking time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up with crispy hen of the woods and pink oysters and uncooked lion’s mane. It was ultimately the lion’s made that I was worried about most. Thick and spongey, it released a lot more liquid than the others … and I’m just not into spongey texture (unless it’s cake, of course).
Maybe it was the pan I used (titanium) or maybe these mushrooms were just more forgiving. But, the result was just superb. (Sorry, no picture! They were eaten too quickly.) Both the hen of the woods and the pink oyster mushrooms fried up beautifully. Soft and mildly flavoured, they were a huge hit. So, now the big question … did the lion’s mane end up mushy? No! It actually ended up releasing enough of its liquid that it ended up browning nicely and had a texture that was like biting into a moist cake. Flavour? Mild.
I love these mushrooms, and I encourage you to try them if you see them. Or, if you come across mushrooms you’ve never seen before, try them and let me know so I can look for them, too.