Foraged Mushroom 5: Wood Cauliflower

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Sparassis crispa

“Oh…you found someone’s brain!” came the reply when I proudly sent this to a friend! 😂 

Cauliflower Mushroom
"Look what I found! 😃"

It certainly elicited more  enthusiasm (and a little envy) when I shared it to my foraging groups. 
After all, in the world of mushroom foraging, this is a fungi of legendary status! 
(I had heard about it from my mother, long before I took a real interest in mushrooms.)
Not only is it a delectable edible but also very easy to identify. 

According to my Richard Mabey pocket book: “The only slightly dangerous species with which Sparrassis could be confused is Ramaria formosa.”  

Sparassis spathulata, which goes by the same common name, is very similar in both appearance and edibility.

The Small Print...

A delicious, easily identified wild mushroom, what’s not to like? 

Well, I hadn’t fully considered the rather obvious fact that a mushroom so full of crevices is likely to be inhabited… This one was populated by so many leggy critters, I was a grasshopper short of calling it James and the Giant Sparassis! 

millipede cauliflower fungus
Woodlouse cauliflower fungus

Don’t underestimate the hiding abilities of a millipede, and woodlice are much sneakier than they look!  

Preparation

For optimum flavour and texture, it’s best to avoid washing mushrooms usually, but a quick wash is definitely recommended for this particular mushroom (thankfully it’s not as absorbent as other types). 
I spent quite a lot of time carefully separating it into smaller pieces, brushing out loose dirt and insects. 
But even after a blast under the tap and a good shake, one stubborn millipede waited until his morsel was sizzling in the pan to make a hasty delayed exit! (don’t worry, I made a swift rescue)

Sparassis crispa

At some point, during the process, I resigned myself to eating ample amounts of bug poo with my lovely mushroom. I suppose it’s only pre-consumed mushroom anyway…  

Taste and Smell

The smell became quite familiar during the time it took to prepare it all. Not an unpleasant scent, bittersweet, almost a hint of woody orange, to me. 
I simply fried in olive oil for my first taste. 
I really don’t want to say this but… 

It tasted like chicken! 

It’s such a cliche, and since I haven’t eaten chicken in about seven years, perhaps I’m not even qualified to say it… 
I needed a second opinion, so I called my (non-vegetarian) neighbour round for a taste; After chewing thoughtfully for a while he declared, “It tastes like bacon.” [facepalm] 

What I did with it

Thankfully, my new toy* arrived just in time to dry some of it. 

Crispy Cauliflower

I added some to a rich Miso soup. 

And, of course, my favourite, Spaghetti! 

Cauliflower fungus spaghetti

Have you tried the Cauliflower fungus? What did you think? Tell me your favourite recipes, please! Comment below. 

Happy Foraging Foodies!

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