One of the things I love about winter, a real winter, with frost and snow, is the arrival of the cold climate mushrooms such as the wonderful White Elf, Pleurotus nebrodensis. At the moment we are really loving the White Elf - enjoyed as a tempura snack in the afternoon by the fire (recipe below).
This mushroom belongs to a group of related species, including Pleurotus ferulae, which exist in the wild in limestone soils in Sicily and Western Asia. They are very distinct from their cousins, King oysters (Pleurotus eryngii), although they all appear to be facultative parasites of plants in the Apiaceae family, such as sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) and asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida). Luckily, they don't need a plant symbiont, and they fruit from a wide variety of substrates.
It is easy to see why the White Elf is critically endangered in the wild once you eat them, they really are remarkable. Fortunately, they are an easy to grow mushrooms if you are skilled in the way of the mushroom and up for a challenge.
Pleurotus nebrodensis has been considered as a hard to grow mushroom within cultivation circles. It is critically endangered in the wild and relies on experimentation to grow as a cultivated mushroom. Here at Forest Fungi we like to experiment and have the key ingredients... patience and persistence (and limestone/shell grit). Will found composted substrates are better than raw for this beauty and experimental techniques with substrate mixes have managed to increase yield and mushroom size significantly. Oh yeah, did I mention they like it cold? They are patient, some of our blocks have waited for almost a year to fruit, but the frost brings them on. If you don't have cold weather, you can shock them in the freezer, or better still, grow something that suits your climate!
The White Elf mushroom is dense and meaty, highly prized in Asia because of its health giving properties and texture being the closest to abalone of many mushrooms. The colour is also almost pure white and so beautiful to grow.
No other mushroom we grow comes close as far as density of the mushroom. It is a very heavy, solid mushroom with a lot of flesh compared to gills. This is another white gilled, white spore producing mushroom that is totally edible.
But wait, I thought many mushroom critics advise you are not meant to eat white mushrooms with white gills and spores?
There are many white gill and spore mushrooms that are edible, including the White Elf mushroom. Lucky for that as they really are in the Forest Fungi top five mushrooms.
A lot of mushrooms are compared to abalone, but this one comes the closest.
How to make tempura nebrodensis...
Cut the nebrodensis into strips about half a centimeter thick, then soak in a vinegar brine.
Lightly dust in an organic stone ground flour and shallow fry in hot oil until lightly golden.
Absolutely delicious with a squeeze of lemon. I am thinking these tasty snacks would be great with a fresh garden coriander, lime and tomato salsa and beer after a days garden planting...
If you are interested in learning more about specialised cultivation techniques for this delicious, critically endangered mushroom come along to an upcoming Forest Fungi mushroom cultivation course.