What are Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)?


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Named for their smooth oyster like texture, oyster mushrooms are one of the most cultivated edible mushrooms in the world. With their subtle flavor, incredYou can’t go wrong with these edible fungi with health benefits, and meaty texture.

One of the most interesting things about this incredible fungus is that oysters are the only known carnivorous mushrooms, eating and digesting microscopic organisms known as nematodes. Nematodes are tiny worms that live in the soil.

When identifying oyster mushrooms, the first thing you should look for is the decurrent gills that run on the underside of the caps. They also have large fan shaped caps that can grow up to 10 inches across. They are bracket fungi, growing in a shelf like formation on the sides of trees or logs.

Fast Facts about Oyster Mushrooms

  • Fresh oyster mushrooms taste metallic and smell faintly like licorice, while cooked oyster mushrooms have a velvety texture instead of a chewier texture.
  • White oyster mushrooms are often called pearl oyster mushrooms, with gray variations commonly called black pearl oyster mushrooms.
  • Oyster mushrooms grow almost year round, from summer to winter.
  • Oyster fungus is the only known species of carnivorous mushroom, feasting on microscopic nematodes invisible to the naked eye.

How do I Identify Oyster Mushrooms?


Saprotrophic, meaning they feed off dead or dying organic matter, mostly dead or dying trees.


Fan or oyster shaped, between 2 – 10 inches in diameter. The cap is smooth, with no warts or scales. Usually white to light brown with springy, firm white flesh. Edges can be smooth or frilled. The fruiting bodies grow in overlapping clusters on the sides of hardwood trees and dead logs.


White gills decurrent from the stem on the underside of the cap.


Stubby and off-center or non-existent. If oysters are growing off the side of the log, the stem is more likely to be crooked and off-center than if it were growing off the top. The stem is white, with no ring or sack around the base.


Springy and chewy texture with a velvety finish in mature specimens.

Spore print

White to a pale violet-gray. Because of the spore print’s pallor, it is best to perform the spore print against the dark paper.


This fungus has a slight anise scent, which makes it smell faintly of licorice.


Oyster mushrooms grow almost year round; these mushrooms can be found during summer, autumn, and even winter in some warmer climates.


Oyster mushrooms are usually found growing on dead or dying wood. They prefer beech trees and other deciduous hardwoods in temperate forests but can sometimes be found growing on conifers.

Types of Oyster Mushrooms

While the species pleurotus ostreatus is considered the “true” oyster mushroom, many other edible species in the pleurotus genus are considered oysters.

Golden Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)

The golden oyster mushroom grows in bright clusters on the forest floor, resembling yellow flower bouquets. Golden oysters are considered a culinary delicacy due to their cashew flavor and even smell like watermelon when harvested.

They grow in warmer climates, flourishing between 75 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They are very delicate, so keep this in mind when harvesting. Golden oysters are ideal for local restaurants and farmers’ markets because they don’t travel well over long distances.

King Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus eryngii)

With a thick, tender body and a taste like fresh scallops, it is no wonder why the king oyster mushroom is hailed as a delicacy among the culinary community. Also known as king trumpet mushrooms, these fungi are native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa. They usually have dark caps, most often dark brown or gray in color.

King oyster mushrooms have a savory flavor and can be sliced and added to a stir fry with seafood to bring out its natural scallop taste. They can also be cut up to resemble scallops, with few able to tell the difference. A great alternative for vegetarians and vegans alike.

Phoenix Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus pulmonarius)

These wild oyster mushrooms have more of a stem and smaller caps than regular oysters. As a result, they prefer warmer temperatures and will appear later in the summer than true oyster mushrooms.

They have an interesting growing pattern in the United States – they grow on deciduous hardwoods in the eastern U.S., while in the western half of the country, they prefer conifers.

Pink Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus djamor)

One of the most beautiful types of oyster mushrooms, this fungus has a lovely rosy pink hue that can become red when grown under blue lights. Pink oysters reportedly have a taste and scent similar to seafood and should be picked when young to have that perfect taste and color.

Pink oyster mushrooms can be grown year round indoors.

Oyster Mushroom Strains

Blue Oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus)

This is a variation of the true oyster, with a sweet scent and a preference for growing on sweetgum, poplar, oak, and other hardwood trees. Depending on the temperature in which they grow, blue oysters can either be known as warm blue oysters (grown in warmer temperatures) or cold blue oyster mushrooms (preferring colder climates).

Cold blue oyster mushrooms grow during the winter, which make them ideal soup mushrooms for their meaty texture and availability during the cold months.

Pearl oyster mushrooms

As their name suggests, Pearl oysters are usually white in color but can also come in pale gray or light brown. These mushrooms have a springy texture. Black pearl oysters are medium to dark gray in color.

The pearl oyster mushroom is also the name given to the most common white variety of this fungus.

Oyster Mushroom Lookalikes

Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius)

The elm oyster isn’t even in the genus pleurotus, but it bears striking similarity to the oyster mushroom and is commonly mistaken for them.

Your best bet for identifying the elm oyster from its popular doppelganger is its gills. While a true oyster’s gills are decurrent and continue running down the short stem, the gills of the elm oyster stop suddenly just short of the stem.

Elm oysters are edible. However, they reportedly don’t taste nearly as good as oyster mushrooms.

Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis)

The phosphorescent ghost fungus glows green in the dark, lending to its spooky common name. It has the same color and bracket structure as oyster mushrooms.

Fortunately, ghost fungus isn’t nearly as widespread as oysters, only growing in Japan and Australia. If you live in either of these two countries, make sure to learn how to identify this poisonous species.

Jack O’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearis)

This notorious bracket fungus is very poisonous and often mistaken for oyster mushrooms or the edible chicken of the woods. It is usually bright orange in color; hence its festive name, Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms, grow throughout North America and Europe.

Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata)

While this poisonous species isn’t a bracket fungus like the others on our list, it grows in clusters near dead logs and has the same coloring and gill pattern as oyster mushrooms. So, it’s possible to find both the edible oyster mushroom and the toxic ivory funnel growing in the same area.

Where can I Find Oyster Mushrooms?

Can I Cultivate Oyster Mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms are one of the four most widely cultivated mushrooms: shiitake, portobello, and button mushrooms.

Growing oyster mushrooms from recycled coffee grounds is the best way to cultivate these mushrooms at home.

Health Benefits of Pleurotus Ostreatus

Oyster mushrooms have a myriad of health benefits, including being rich in nutrients while having low carbs, which is great for people following low-carb diets. In addition, they are a great source of protein and fiber.

Oyster mushrooms contain antioxidants, which help reduce cell damage in the body that can lead to premature aging and, in extreme cases, cancer.

These mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, which help aid in heart health.

How do I Cook Oyster Mushrooms?

Don’t soak oyster mushrooms since their spongy bodies soak up moisture. To clean wild or freshly foraged oyster mushrooms, simply wipe off the dirt with a damp paper towel or give them a quick rinse under the faucet. Check each mushroom for signs of decomposition, especially if you’ve been storing them for a while.

Cultivated oyster mushrooms won’t require as much cleaning, so wipe off any questionable bits with a dry paper towel.

Unlike most other mushrooms, save for portobello mushrooms and button mushrooms, oysters can be eaten raw when added to salads or vegetable trays. However, they have a slightly metallic flavor that many may find off-putting when raw.

Cooking the mushrooms can balance their slightly chewy texture and bring out their natural mild flavor. They are an excellent addition to stir fries or roasted with olive oil as a savory side dish.

You can store fresh oyster mushrooms in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a week.

Dry oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest mushrooms to rehydrate. You don’t need to soak them to reconstitute them – simply add them to your dish, and they’ll soak up the available liquid.