Lion's Mane Mushrooms
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Lion’s Mane mushrooms are medium to large in size, averaging 10-25 centimeters in diameter, and are spherical and elongated with a single, hidden base. The tough, fibrous base is covered in soft, overlapping, slender spines that average 1-5 centimeters in length and dangle freely down towards the ground ending in pointed tips. Each of the spines, also known as teeth, release spores into the air promoting new growth on nearby trees. When the mushroom is young, the spines are bright white, but with age, the spines discolor to pale brown-yellow. Lion’s Mane mushrooms are tender and chewy with a mild, sweet, seafood flavor reminiscent of scallops, lobster, or crab.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are available in the late summer through fall.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms, botanically classified as Hericium erinaceus, are wild, edible mushrooms that belong to the Hericiaceae family. Also known as the Bearded Tooth fungus, Pom Pom mushroom, Yamabushitake, Comb Tooth, Shishigashida, Monkey Head mushroom, and the Bearded Hedgehog mushroom, Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow on freshly cut portions of living hardwood trees such as sycamore, walnut, American beech, oak, and birch. Belonging to the tooth fungus group, these mushrooms are somewhat rare to find in the wild as they tend to grow higher up on trees, but they are also cultivated on sawdust and logs for commercial markets. Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow all over the world and are used in many culinary applications as a meat substitute and are also used in Asia for its medicinal properties.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain zinc, potassium, calcium, and beta-glucan polysaccharides which can help protect the overall health of the human body.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as baking, frying, roasting, and sautéing. Their meaty texture is often used as a substitute for meat and can be served as a replacement for seafood, lamb, and pork. They are also commonly sautéed and served in pasta, stir-fries, soups, surf and turf, burgers, and salads. This mild mushroom easily picks up the flavors of the accompanying ingredients and can be a part of both side and main dishes. When prepping, the mushroom should be thoroughly washed or brushed clean and then squeezed out like a sponge to remove excess water. The mushroom is very absorbent and too much water will ruin the flavor and texture of the dish. Lion’s Mane mushrooms pair well with apples, ginger, garlic, shallots, onions, butter, chiles, paprika, thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage, saffron, white pepper, kohlrabi, spinach, leeks, lemon, carrots, potatoes, pine nuts, meats such as beef and poultry, cashews, dry white wine, pesto, and chicken stock. They will keep for a couple of days when stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator. They can also be cooked and then frozen for a couple of months.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine and are believed to provide many benefits to the body, though no extensive research has been done to prove these beliefs. In China and Japan, the Lion's Mane mushroom is used in supplement form or consumed fresh to help improve the memory, reduce anxiety, fight inflammation, and to boost the immune system. These mushrooms are also applied to wounds on the skin to help speed up the healing process. In addition to fresh form, Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be dried and sometimes combined with Lingzhi mushrooms to make a tonic for gastric ulcers and for treating poor digestion.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been growing wild in temperate climates for several hundred years in Europe, in North America, especially in the southeast, and also in Asia, specifically Japan, China, and Korea. Today Lion’s Mane mushrooms are available in fresh form at farmers markets and specialty grocers and in dried or capsule form at natural medicine stores and online retailers in North America, Asia, and Europe.
Recipes that include Lion's Mane Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.