Make the Best of Rainy Days; Forage for Oyster Mushrooms

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After 245 days of tundra, several crock-pots of beef and barley stew and a surplus empty red wine bottles, we Long Islanders finally emerge from winter cocoons without having to mummify ourselves in wool. Summer is here and we want to make the most of our precious sunny days, absorbing as much Vitamin D, salt water and beach cocktails as possible.

Few things invoke as many temper tantrums as several days of heavy rain during our seemingly short-lived summer. What’s a Long Islander to do during a monsoon other than huddle under porches and weep at the loss of one more pristine sunny day? I’ll tell you what: get your baskets and paper bags ready. There are oyster mushrooms to be grilled.

There’s no better time to forage for wild oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), than the day after a rain storm. Unlike us, they love the humidity. Long Island’s own professional forager and chef Kyle Fiasconaro taught us last fall how easy it is to find these tasty wild morsels.

Oyster mushrooms are grey, white or beige colored, fan-shaped funghi that grow off the trunks of hard wood trees like oak and pine. Their fine-gilled underside and extremely short stems are great identifiers. I never thought the sight of an old, decaying tree trunk would excite me as much as it does after finding my best oysters on their seemingly lifeless leftovers. They come in many different sizes, but glossy, extra terrestrial and slimy looking mushrooms are the freshest and most edible. Stay away from spongey, shriveled looking mushrooms with beige around the edges (like the largest mushroom in the photo below). When you find the perfect funghi friend, simply harvest with a knife and store in a damp pamper towel in a paper bag in the fridge for up to three days.

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What better way to indulge in summer culinary satisfaction than grilling? Once it is wiped with a damp sponge, grill your oyster mushrooms over medium heat, gills side up, for about 10 minutes. I like to continuously baste mine with melted butter from grass-fed cows, garlic and whatever fresh herbs I have on hand.

Fire up the grill and get your rain boots ready. Blue Points are not the only oysters on Long Island.  As always, make sure the forest you forage in is not a protected area and always consult a reference before eating any wild edibles.  Don’t let the rain put a damper on your summer fun. Think of all the mushrooms to be had!