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Native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia, a king oyster mushroom is the largest species of mushroom in the Pleurotus genus. These mushrooms are easily identifiable by their small flat tops and thick meaty stems. Edible, the king oyster is cultivated as well as grown wild. It is used in a variety of main course and side dishes and can even be sauteed or grilled and eaten alone. Also called the king trumpet mushroom, the king oyster is sometimes referred to by its species name, eryngii.
The stem composes most of the king oyster mushroom. King oysters can have up to 8 inch (20.3 cm) stems that are nearly as wide as the caps that top them. Caps are thin and flat, adding very little to the overall mass of this mushroom. Their thick stems require longer cooking times than most mushroom species.
A king oyster mushroom has very little taste when raw. Cooking, however, brings out the familiar mushroom flavor not apparent in the uncooked fungus. Although these mushrooms are not always easily found, Asian markets most reliably have them for sale.
The shelf life of king oyster mushrooms is longer than most other mushroom species. Normally mushrooms have a shelf life of approximately two to seven days on average. The average shelf life of King oyster mushrooms, however, is about ten days. Like all mushrooms, king oysters should be kept refrigerated.
The king oyster mushroom is a popular addition to Asian foods, particularly stir fries. These mushrooms may also be added to stews, soups, pastas, and sauces, as well as a variety of vegetables dishes. They are normally first cut lengthwise, and then may be cut into smaller pieces depending on the size of the individual mushrooms and in what dish they are being used.
When these mushrooms are eaten alone or as a topping to steak or other meat, they are usually marinated before being cooked. Marinades generally consist of olive oil and vinegar as well as various herbs, such as garlic. The mushrooms may be marinated briefly or for several hours before they are cooked.
The king oyster mushroom is usually sauteed when not included in another dish. Sauteing cooks the mushroom pieces in butter or oil until they are lightly browned. Grilling the pieces is also an option and adds a different flavor to the cooked mushrooms. When grilling, the pieces may be cut into larger chunks than the sauteed versions.