If you’re new to foraging or growing mushrooms, oysters are a good place to start because there are so many varieties, they are found throughout the world in hardwood forests, and they are easy to cultivate as well. Want to learn how to harvest oyster mushrooms? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about where to find them, when is the best time to harvest them, and how to harvest them.
What You'll Learn Today
Where to Find Oyster Mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms are choice edibles, known for their mild, savory, somewhat anise-like flavor. They are popular among mushroom lovers around the world and can be both cultivated and harvested from the wild.
If you’re foraging for wild oyster mushrooms, you’re most likely to find them in temperate, tropical, and subtropical forests. Specifically, they are most often found in deciduous hardwood forests, though they can be found in some mixed (deciduous and conifer) forests as well.
Oyster mushrooms grow from dead or decaying wood, so they are most often found growing from the trunks of decaying or fallen trees. You may also find them growing on the ground from the roots of dead or dying trees, or from rotting forest debris.
Oyster mushrooms can be found throughout the world; their range isn’t limited to a specific area. As long as the forest conditions are right, you have a good chance of finding them.
Oyster mushrooms most often fruit during the late fall, though you may also find them during unseasonably cool summers, warm winters, and even during spring if the temperatures are consistently between 40 and 70 degrees.
When to Harvest Oyster Mushrooms?
It’s best to harvest oyster mushrooms within the first couple of days after the fruiting bodies appear; if you leave them too long, they will become tough and insect-riddled. Younger mushrooms are fresher and better-tasting as well.
Again, the best time to look for them is in the fall, but you can find them just about any time of the year as long as the weather isn’t too hot. Look for them in damp, shady spots such as on logs, tree trunks, and forest debris near water sources.
Oyster mushrooms have a very fast growth rate, especially when temperatures are on the warmer end of the spectrum. If you are cultivating them yourself, it is recommended to harvest them as much as twice a day, in the morning and the evening.
Whether growing them at home or foraging for them in the wild, you should harvest them when the caps are smooth, round, and still slightly curled under; if you wait until the caps completely flatten out, they will not taste as fresh and will go bad sooner.
Avoid harvesting any mushrooms that appear damaged, riddled with bug damage, or have dark, soft rot spots. Again, the freshest, newest mushrooms will have the best flavor, and they will also store the longest.
How to Harvest Oyster Mushrooms?
If you find one oyster mushroom, or even a cluster of them, chances are you’ll find more close by. That said, it’s best to harvest only what you can use within a week or so unless you plan to dehydrate and store your excess long-term.
If you have never foraged for oysters before, it’s a good idea to have your harvest checked by a more experienced mushroom hunter. Oyster mushrooms do have a few poisonous look-alikes, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you are cultivating your own oyster mushrooms, you are probably growing them from a kit, so you don’t have to worry about proper identification.
Regardless of whether your mushrooms are growing in the wild or from a kit, the methods of harvest are pretty similar. Oyster mushrooms usually grow in small clusters, often from a common base; you can either cut them off at the base or twist them free.
If you twist them, be careful not to damage the delicate caps. Locate the base of the mushroom cluster and grip it firmly, then twist slowly to dislodge the cluster.
Using a knife is the recommended method because you can make a cleaner break. Again, locate the base of the cluster, and gently slide the knife through this base, cutting away the group of mushrooms but leaving the base intact so more mushrooms can grow from the spot.
Occasionally, you may find oyster mushrooms growing singly. In these cases, you can harvest them as you would a cluster; either cut them off at the base or gently twist them free.
Check out the following video to see how oysters are harvested when cultivated at this small mushroom farm in Arizona:
Oyster mushrooms are fairly easy to harvest because they usually come off in large clusters from a single base. Whether you’re growing them yourself or harvesting them from the wild, simply cut or twist the mushroom or mushroom cluster until it dislodges itself from the base.