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Ox Tongue Mushrooms
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Ox Tongue mushrooms have an irregular, flattened appearance, averaging 7 to 20 centimeters in diameter, and grow in a semicircular, shelf-like shape with wavy to curved edges. When young, the mushroom is moist with a light, red-pink hue, but as it matures, the skin darkens into a deep red-brown. Underneath the fungus, the pores are small white dots when young, giving the underside a rough texture, and as the mushroom matures, the pores lengthen into individual ivory to light pink tubes that bruise brown-red when aggravated. Ox Tongue mushrooms have white and red, striated flesh with a soft, aqueous, and slightly rubbery texture. When sliced, the flesh secretes a sticky red liquid that is also sometimes found on the outer surface. Ox Tongue mushrooms have a chewy and tender consistency when raw and have a tart, acidic, and earthy flavor.
Ox Tongue mushrooms are available in the late summer through fall.
Ox Tongue mushrooms, botanically classified as Fistulina hepatica, are unusually shaped, bracket fungi that belong to the Fistulinaceae family. Also known as the Beefsteak fungus and Tongue mushroom, Ox Tongue mushrooms are a somewhat rare fungus that can be found on both living and decaying chestnut and oak trees. Primarily growing at the base of the tree, Ox Tongue mushrooms have a peculiar appearance that closely resembles raw meat. As the mushroom matures, it can form into a shape similar to a liver or tongue with dark-red coloring, which is also where it earned its name. Ox Tongue mushrooms have been used as a meat substitute for many years, but despite its similarity in appearance to meat, the flavor of the fungus has been highly debated among foragers, with the majority concluding that the taste is primarily acidic, depending on maturity. Ox Tongue mushrooms are not commercially cultivated and are only found through foraging in select regions around the world, making them a rare fungus to find in local markets.
Ox Tongue mushrooms contain some vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help fight against free radicals in the body by boosting the immune system. The mushrooms may also provide some potassium, fiber, and folate.
Ox Tongue mushrooms are unique as they are one of the few mushrooms that can be consumed raw. It is important to note that younger mushrooms are the preferred stage for fresh consumption as the older, more mature mushrooms develop a highly acidic and sour flavor. Ox Tongue mushrooms can be thinly sliced and served similarly to sashimi, quickly pickled and used as a garnish, or fried and crumbled into bits like bacon. When prepared in thicker slices, the mushrooms are commonly soaked in milk to help dilute the acidity and are cooked in cream-based sauces for a savory, balanced flavor. They are often used in stroganoff with other mushrooms, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, cooked into vegetable stir-fries, served in pasta, or sautéed in butter with fresh herbs. Ox Tongue mushrooms pair well with carrots, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, thyme, cilantro, garlic, shallots, lentils, noodles, mustard, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The fresh mushrooms should be used immediately for the best quality and will only keep 1-2 days when stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator.
When Ox Tongue mushrooms grow on the side of English oak trees, they secrete acid into the light-hued oak that stains the wood a rich, dark brown. The fungus and acid will eventually kill the tree over time, but from this staining process, the dark brown wood has become a valued commodity in the woodworking world. Brown oak is extremely rare and is prized for its coloring and graining. The wood is used for flooring, furniture, and veneers and is considered to be a premium wood fetching very high prices for its novelty.
Ox Tongue mushrooms are reported to grow wild in regions of North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia, and have been present since ancient times. Growing on live or decaying oak and chestnut trees, Ox Tongue mushrooms are especially prominent in forests throughout Ireland and England and were given their current scientific name by a British botanist in the late 18th century. In Australia, the mushroom may also be found on eucalyptus trees. Today Ox Tongue mushrooms are still only found in the wild and are foraged throughout Europe, in both North and South Africa, Australia, in Canada, and in the Eastern United States.
Recipes that include Ox Tongue Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.