The Fascinating World of Fungi
Mushrooms that look like coral, also known as coral-like mushrooms, are often colorful fungi that resemble underwater coral in shape and form.Over 14,000 species of mushrooms exist in the world, and many types of coral-like mushrooms belong to the families Clavariaceae and Ramariaceae.
Coral-like mushrooms get their name from their branching shapes and coloration that are similar to coral.The *Ramaria aurea, for example, is a golden yellow coral mushroom that grows in a coral-like formation. These unusual mushrooms can be found in forests around the world, especially in damp, wooded areas where there are abundant decaying logs or wood chips. Some edible varieties of coral-like mushrooms even have fruity tastes and fragrances, such as apricot or peach*.
Because of the dangers of misidentification, only consume coral-like mushrooms that have been properly identified by an expert. Enjoying the beauty and diversity of coral mushrooms in nature is a safer alternative. The next time you take a hike, keep an eye out for these fascinating fungi kingdom. You might spot a rare or dazzling new coral mushroom!
Identifying Coral-Like Mushrooms
To identify coral-like mushrooms, look for the following characteristics:
Cap shape: The cap is branched and coral-like. Caps come in a variety of shapes like antlers, clubs or candles. Some common cap shapes of coral mushrooms include:
- Branching – Branches repeatedly subdivide into smaller branches.
- Antlered – Primary branches do not subdivide, resembling antlers.
- Cauliflower – Dense clusters of wavy, crinkled branches.
Gill attachment: Coral mushrooms either have gills that attach to the cap margin, or they have pores instead of gills. Pores are tiny tubes that appear as small holes on the mushroom’s underside. Some mushrooms have spines or teeth instead of gills or pores.
Spore print color: The spore print color is obtained by placing a cap on a piece of paper for several hours. The spores that drop from the cap leave a colored print that helps in identification. Common spore print colors for coral mushrooms are white, pale yellow and pale orange. The Golden coral, for example, has a bright yellow spore print.
Growth habit: Many coral mushrooms grow solitary, scattered or in groups on soil, wood or wood debris. Some grow from buried roots. The Crown coral, for example, grows in dense clusters at the base of conifers.
Bruising reaction: Some coral mushrooms stain blue, yellow or red when handled due to oxidation of chemicals. The Blue coral stains dark blue when handled.
With practice, you can become adept at identifying the many varieties of coral mushrooms in nature. Always exercise caution, obtain expert identification and never consume mushrooms unless you are 100% certain they are edible.
Edible or Toxic: Know Before You Eat
While some coral mushrooms are edible and coveted by gourmet chefs, others are poisonous and potentially deadly if consumed. It is critical to properly identify coral mushrooms before eating them. Never rely on guesswork – if in doubt, throw it out!
Some edible coral mushrooms include:
- Crown coral: Pale yellow, branching. Grows in dense clusters at the base of conifers. Considered good edible.
- Golden coral : Yellow to golden cap. White spore print. Grows solitary or in groups on rotting wood. Considered edible and prized by gourmets.
- Blue coral: Pale blue cap that stains darker blue when bruised. Grows on rotting wood. Edible but mediocre. Needs cooking to remove bitterness.
Toxic coral mushrooms that can cause illness or even death include:
- Pigskin poison puffball: White to pinkish cap that bruises reddish brown. Grows on soil. Toxic and poisonous. Ingestion can be lethal.
- Bitter coral: Red to reddish orange, branching coral. Grows on rotting wood. Poisonous and causes gastrointestinal issues if consumed.
- Deadly coral: Yellow to red orange mushroom that grows from underground roots. Highly toxic and deadly poisonous.
Guidelines for determining edibility:
- Ensure accurate identification of the coral mushroom using a reputable field guide or expert. Some edible and poisonous species look very similar.
- Consume only the edible parts: cap and stem. Avoid the spines.
- Cook edible coral mushrooms before eating as some contain irritants. Cooking may reduce but not eliminate toxicity for poisonous species.
- Eat only a small amount the first time. Wait 24 hours to ensure no ill effects before eating more.
- Beware of lookalikes – some coral mushrooms are poisonous. When in doubt, do not consume.
- Record your experience to help determine edibility. Note date/time consumed, characteristics, and any reactions.
In summary, while some coral mushrooms can be a culinary delight, exercise extreme caution. Misidentification of poisonous species can lead to sickness or death. Safety first – know before you eat! Enjoy coral mushrooms visually if uncertain.
Where to Find Coral-Like Mushrooms
Coral-like mushrooms can be found in many woodland areas, especially where there are decaying logs, wood chips, or woody debris. The key is to locate the specific habitats where different types of coral mushrooms grow.
Coniferous forests: Many coral mushrooms are found in forests of pine, spruce, fir and cedar trees. The Crown coral, for example, grows at the base of conifers. Search areas with dead logs, stumps and wood debris.
Deciduous woodlands: Coral mushrooms also appear in hardwood forests with trees like oak, hickory, maple and beech. The Golden coral and Bitter coral can be found in deciduous forests, growing from dead logs, branches and wood chips.
Disturbed ground: Some coral mushrooms pop up in disturbed areas of forests where the ground has been damaged by natural events like windstorms or human activity. The Deadly coral, for instance, grows from underground roots in disturbed soil.
Rotting wood: Fallen logs, decaying stumps, wood chips and timber debris provide habitat for many coral mushrooms. The Blue coral and Cauliflower mushroom grow from rotting conifer wood. Check old logging roads for decaying wood debris.
Grassy areas: A few coral mushrooms like the Pigskin poison puffball emerge from soil, grassy areas and meadows. Look for them during rainy periods in the summer and fall.
- Search areas that have had recent rainfall as most coral mushrooms need moisture to fruit.
- Check disturbed, wooded areas with decaying logs or underground roots.
- Look for coral mushrooms during summer and fall when temperatures are warm.
- Investigate woodlands at varying elevations. Coral mushrooms are found from sea level to mountain forests.
- Look for clusters on the ground but also scan standing timber, stumps and fallen logs.
- Record the characteristics of locations where you find coral mushrooms to help in identification.
Keep exploring woodlands near you. With an keen eye, you’ll be spotting colorful coral mushrooms in no time! Always take photos and notes to assist in proper identification before consuming.
Gourmet Recipes for Coral-Like Mushrooms
Once you have properly identified edible coral mushrooms, you can enjoy preparing delicious gourmet recipes with them. Here are some simple recipe ideas to get you started:
Sautéed Coral Mushrooms
– 1 lb edible coral mushrooms (such as Crown coral, Golden coral), cleaned and sliced
– 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the butter/oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the coral mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 5-8 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Coral Mushroom Risotto
– 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 lb edible coral mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan, then reduce heat to low.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the coral mushrooms and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the rice to the mushrooms and stir to coat with the oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed by the rice.
5. Add the simmering broth to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next. Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and a creamy sauce has formed, 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
For more gourmet coral mushroom recipes, search online or get creative in your kitchen! Always ensure positive identification of edible species and carefully follow recipes to avoid poisoning. Bon appetit!