NEVER EAT ANYTHING YOU ARE UNSURE OF! I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T CORRECTLY IDENTIFY SOMETHING! Lawyers made me say it.
One of the more interesting facets of mushrooms, at least to me, is the variation of flavor that they have. If all you eat are “button” mushrooms (which, FYI are closely related to the Meadow Mushroom) and commercially purchased mushrooms… I feel sorry for you. There are mushrooms that taste so much like chicken that I have served it breaded and fried as chicken nuggets and a group of raging meat eaters couldn’t tell the difference. Puffballs, so help me, smell and taste a little like French cheeses. Oyster mushrooms both taste and smell like oysters. Every Hericium I have ever had is a dead ringer for crab. Flavor, texture, fragrance while cooking… if you didn’t know better, you would swear you are eating crab.
Hericiums are notoriously fragile. They are best eaten when bright and shiny white. They turn yellow quickly, and with the yellow comes a sort of sour flavor. Fruiting mostly in the fall, it is not unheard of in the spring. Today, one of my mycophile buddies lead me to the specimen below. Then she climbed the tree to go get it. Then she gave it to me! That is a great friend!!
This is an example of Hericium coralloides. I thought when I originally saw it that it was in fact a different species, the Hericium erinaneus, until I started to clean it. Once I cut it open and saw the clear branching, toothlike structure (it looks a lot like coral) I realized right away that despite its oval shape, it was actually what is commonly called the Bearded Comb.
Like I said previously, this is a fragile mushroom. Mishandling it will make it turn brown and get bitter. I had one job. One. Catch it as my friend cut it loose. She is up a rotting, horizontal, tree with a knife and my only job is to catch the fragile mushroom. What do I do? Start taking pics of the one growing in the hole and drop it. Awesome. One job. One.
It was slightly discolored anyway. I cut the yellow parts off, cubed it and put it in a pot of water to boil. It even looks a little like crab here, too. I boiled it for a few minutes. I think it might have been better to boil the water first and THEN add the raw mushroom, but it still worked out fine. This is how it turned out. Looks even MORE like crab meat now. It had a bit of a sour flavor from the age and dropping. Not overwhelmingly bad, but not perfect. the plan is to use it to make “crab” Rangoon The last time we had a nice Hericium, my daughter made awesome ramen FROM SCRATCH, with hen (G. Frondosa), ears (auricula-judae) and chicken (Laetiporus sulphureus). It was amazingling good. If you find this mushroom, treat it gently and enjoy the seafood flavor without the actual seafood!!