Tastiest Wild Mushrooms in New York
New York State is wild. Mostly rural. Wooded. Forested. Even New York City has wild creeping through suburban, even urban areas. There, one finds mushrooms, many of them edible, some of them in high demand. Some are poisonous too. It is important to know the difference. Considering that, just what wild mushrooms are on the menu at a boutique restaurant in New York.
Chicken of the Woods, or just Chicken, is a great mushroom for beginners. It is among the tastiest wild mushrooms around and, most importantly, is very easy to identify. Few mushrooms look anything like it, making it somewhat difficult to confuse with other finds. However, some people report mild nausea with some species of Laetiporus mushrooms. Why is this?
There are a few possible reasons why some people might not tolerate Chicken too well, but the primary reason is that this is a group of mushrooms rather than a single type. Laetiporus is a genus of closely related species. Most are perfectly safe. Some are a little toxic, not dangerously so. For this reason, one should always try a little first. See how you feel. It is tasty. Like actual chicken.
While Grifola frondosa honors the same bird in common name, Hen of the Woods is nothing like its Chicken counterpart. “Chicken” refers to taste, whereas “hen” references the way the mushroom looks. Hen of the Woods literally appears as a pile of big, grey feathers. With a little more investigation, one soon realizes it is one of the tastiest mushrooms anywhere.
Hens are incredibly popular. In Asian cultures, they are tradition. A staple. In Japan, people know them as Maitake, and one sees such labels on the shelves here too. What is nice about this mushroom is its versatility. You can eat it almost any way, but grilled with melted cheese is a universal favorite. Deep fried with garlic works well too.
The Giant Puffball is a favorite edible mushroom nationwide. It is white. Smooth. High in protein. It comes shaped like a ball, a little lumpy, but what gives it away is its size. These puffballs are big, ranging anywhere from large to outright huge. There really is no mistaking them, except perhaps in their early stages, where they might resemble toxic earthballs or deadly egg-stage Amanita.
Confusion is very unlikely, however. As said, these mushrooms are big. Too big to mistake for anything else. They are popular edibles. If harvested at the right time, of course. They are only good for eating when still completely white inside. Once the spores mature, it is too late. They lose their flavor. Have a plan to dry, or to cook and freeze, if you find one wild. It goes bad fast.
Bear’s-Head Tooth, as its name implies, is a toothed mushroom. A delicious one often confused with its close relative Hericium erinaceus, or Lion’s Mane. Where Lion’s Mane is a popular edible many grow at home, you are far more likely to encounter Bear’s-Head Tooth in the woods of New York State. These mushrooms are recognizable. They have obvious teeth. Soft, long spines.
While some people treat Hericium species as interchangeable within its genus, medicinally too, they are, in fact, very different species. They are all edible, however. Extremely tasty. One does not even notice the spines. They are soft and have no influence on the mushroom’s texture. They have a surprisingly seafood flavor. Some call it crab-like. Best try it yourself.
Of all Chanterelles, the Golden is undoubtedly the most famous. If people are talking of Chanterelles, you can assume it is this one. This mushroom is big. It is quite beautiful. It is bright yellow, shaped like a trumpet, and noted for its intense flavor. While Chanterelles are generally all edible, this particular species, Cantharellus cibarius, ranks among the tastiest mushrooms of all.
However, the Golden Chanterelle is easily confused with another, poisonous mushroom. Omphalotus olearius, or Jack O’ Lanterns, are also strikingly yellow. The difference, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, is in the gills. Goldens do not have gills like other mushrooms do, like Jack O’ Lantern. Instead, it has ridges on its outer surface, making it distinguishable from its gilled look-alike.
Porcinis, or King Boletes, are recognizable worldwide as among the most delicious mushrooms of all. It is a delicacy in some parts of the globe, fetching a handsome price in some markets. Here in New York, it is common enough when you head to the woods to find it. These mushrooms set themselves apart from most. They have pores under their caps. Not gills. Not ridges either. Pores.
There are other pored mushrooms, however. Plenty of them. Most are edible, perhaps not as good as King Boletes, and some still are toxic. Kings have notable details. Identifiable. These should be sufficient to tell this mushroom apart from its look-alikes, but it is important to note that Kings form a group of related species. Always get a second opinion. To be doubly sure.
Pleurotus mushrooms are many. This genus is among the most cultivated in the world. Every hobbyist is growing some and you can buy most any species in this genus at most any store. In the wilds of New York State, you find Pleurotus in large numbers. It grows well here. Go walkabouts and you will see Oysters everywhere. Luckily, these tasty mushrooms are also easy to identify.
Oysters are soft. Delicate. They look almost like oysters, and that is why their name. Pleurotus mushrooms are distinctive. They have few look-alikes, but nothing of comparable size. Besides their abundant populations, Oysters are popular because of their mild, yet very pleasing taste. These mushrooms are great in other dishes. They tend to absorb other flavors exceptionally well.
Best American Boutique Restaurant in New York
If you go out to the woods today, be sure to take a mushroom guide with you. Correct identification is crucial for safety. Join some local groups on social media. To identify mushrooms. Post your finds and get a second, even third opinion. Know what you are eating. This is the only rule. Better yet, enjoy them in our world-famous dishes. Wild mushrooms are a specialty at this boutique restaurant.