In Portland we’re lucky to be surrounded by delicious local food, from the Willamette Valley wineries to small organic farms; but an excellent local resource often overlooked is our forests.
On forest floors and trees throughout the Pacific Northwest are delicate nutritional powerhouses in endless variety: mushrooms. Not the bland little white button mushrooms you find peddled in every giant grocery store chain but the more flavorful chanterelles, oyster, lobster, maitake, shitake, enoki, crimini and many other wild varieties. Each of these has a distinct taste, texture and use, but all of them provide protein, fiber, and a boost of vitamins and minerals which greatly enhance many vegetarian dishes.
Although the prime harvesting season for most local mushrooms is in the fall, recently while visiting New Seasons Market,at 6400 North Interstate Avenue, I discovered locally foraged oyster mushrooms for just $7.99 per pound, significantly less than the sorry looking imported oyster mushrooms I’d seen earlier at discount grocery store Winco Foods. Not only were these mushrooms cheap but incredibly fresh, with a distinct earthy smell and medium firm texture, a true testament to their local sourcing.
As their name implies, oyster mushrooms bear some visual resemblance to oysters, and also a subtle ocean-like taste; more noticeable when simply sautéd, less pronounced when added to more flavorful stir fry and pasta dishes. To prepare oyster mushrooms rinse them to remove any dirt and debris and gently pat dry. Trim the stems and slice or tear larger pieces into more manageable sizes, how large or small is up to you. Heat a fry pan over medium high heat, add a little olive oil, and sauté mushrooms until fragrant, approximately five minutes. Add freshly ground sea salt and pepper and serve. Other appetizing additions include garlic and onions caramelized before the mushrooms are added to pan, and a splash of white wine added in the last two to three minutes of cooking.
Nutrition information for oyster mushrooms can be found at NutritionData, where it is not only broken down by calories and protein content, but also vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more.