Oysters – Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em

Oyster logI have often been asked by folks, “How fast does a mushroom grow?”. At the risk of sounding sarcastic I usually reply, “I don’ know, because my philosophy is Never Leave a Man Behind !” That’s pretty much true, in that I harvest anything big enough to be seen, with a few exceptions that prove the rule. The few times that I have marked a mushroom and come back to see its growth was when the work was easy. In other words, the subject was very, very close – like my back yard or a morel in a friend’s apple orchard..The last few days were just such a time.

After driving a long way for my first Hen of the Woods (my last post) on Friday, I thought a little “desert run” down a local trail near the house might be in order. It had been over a week since any rain had fallen here, so my expectations were low. After piddling around, I headed back toward my truck. I had skipped checking a large fallen tree just in the woods at the start of the trail. “Too dry for oysters,” I had thought. But then, this is a tree that has given up oysters regularly over the past two years in an unpredictable fashion. I could see the tree from the trail, but would have to get closer to see if oysters were present because there was substantial “crust fungus” on part of it. So I did – get closer.

Oyster1What I found was numerous patches of “pinhead” oysters up to nickel sized, with a few a bit larger. Because it was easy to get to, I thought, “What the heck. Take a picture and come back tomorrow.”



Oyster2I did that and you can see from the pictures that considerable growth had occurred. I picked 3 lbs on Saturday and left all the small ones. That’s my knife for scale. Note, also, all the gaps are filled in.



Oyster3I returned the following day, Sunday, and all the tiny ones were nice eating size, but not mature enough for our orange-headed fungus beetles to have invaded them. I picked another 3 1/2 lbs.

That’s the best quality oysters I have ever harvested. Yummmm-eeee !!!

Bottom line: If you see small oysters, don’t wait more than a day, but it can get substantial growth in one day, even if the woods are dry. They will be big enough for the pan, but not old enough to be slimy or beetle filled. Of course, this tale is episodic and not a controlled experiment. “All ‘shroomers walk in single file. At least the one I saw did.”

POST SCRIPT: I did go back once more, Sunday, which made 3 days from first discovery. The few small ones I had left on Saturday had not grown at all, and had, in fact, dried out. Still, by being patient I got about 7 pounds of the most beautiful oysters I believe I have ever foraged.





2 thoughts on “Oysters – Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em

  1. Dr. Whitey, thank you so much for your posts and blogs. Myself and a few buddies that have become very interested in mycology over the last few years, really enjoy your pictures and wisdom of the “shrooms”. I have been able to find some good Morels, Chanterelles, Puffballs, Oysters, and Boletus around the Heiskell, Anderson County and Oak Ridge areas, but I am still waiting to find my first Hen! But every walk or hike we go on is just another notch on the belt and we learn something new every time, like last month, I had never seen a Stink Horn before, my little field guide comes in handy. So, once again thank you, and one question for you sir, do you still work at the mushroom shop, or are you going to have any identification classes soon?
    Have a good one sir!
    Michael White

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