Both the Latin and common name refer to the shape of the fruiting body. The Latin pleurotus (sideways) refers to the sideways-growth of the stem with respect to the cap while the Latin ostreatus (and the English common name, oyster) refers to the shape of the cap which resembles the bivalve of the same name. Many also believe that the name is fitting due to a flavor resemblance to oysters.
The oyster is one of the more commonly sought wild mushrooms, though it can also be cultivated on straw and other media. It often has the scent of anise due to the presence of benzaldehyde (which, however, smells more like almonds).
The mushroom has a broad, fan or oyster-shaped cap spanning 5–25 cm; natural specimens range from white to gray or tan to dark-brown; the margin is inrolled when young, and is smooth and often somewhat lobed or wavy. The flesh is white, firm, and varies in thickness due to stipe arrangement. The gills of the mushroom are white to cream, and descend on the stalk if present. If so, the stipe is off-center with a lateral attachment to wood. The spore print of the mushroom is white to lilac-gray, and best viewed on dark background. The mushroom's stipe is often absent. When present, it is short and thick.
There are no poisonous lookalikes that grow in North America, however Omphalotus nidiformis is a toxic lookalike that is found in Australia and Japan.
The oyster mushroom is widespread in temperate and subtropical forests throughout the world. It is a saprotroph that acts as a primary decomposer of wood, especially deciduous trees, and beech trees in particular.
The oyster mushroom is one of the few known carnivorous mushrooms. Its mycelia can kill and digest nematodes, which is believed to be a way in which the mushroom obtains nitrogen.
The standard oyster mushroom can grow in many places, but some other related species such as the branched oyster mushroom grow only on trees.
The oyster mushroom is frequently used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cookery as a delicacy: it is frequently served on its own as soup, sometimes stuffed, or in stir-fry recipes with soy sauce. Oyster mushrooms are sometimes made into a sauce used in Asian cooking, which is similar to oyster sauce. The mushroom's taste has been described as a mild with a slight odor similar to anise. The oyster mushroom is best when picked young; as the mushroom ages, the flesh becomes tough and the flavor becomes acrid and unpleasant.
Oysters mushrooms are widely used in Kerala, India. A wide variety of dishes are prepared from these mushrooms. Oysters mushrooms are widely cultivated for food. It is mainly cultivated in large clear polythene bags with buns of hay layered in the bags and mushrooms seeds sown between these layers. It is called "Chippikkoon" in Malayalam.
Oyster mushrooms contain small amounts of arabitol, a sugar alcohol, which may cause gastrointestinal upset in some people.
Oyster mushrooms and lovastatinEdit
In vivo research has shown that consumption of oyster mushrooms lowers cholesterol levels, which is because these mushrooms naturally contain lovastatin. Studies have shown that the mushrooms contain up to 2.8% lovastatin on a dry weight basis.