This wasn’t supposed to be number 6. I didn’t even know what it was when I found it, but it did look tasty!
It was only moments later that I spotted the Fistulina hepatica (Beefsteak), which was high on my wish list, so I had presumed that would be edible number 6.
The Giant Polypore can vary greatly in appearance. It grows on the base of Beech or Oak trees but sometimes may appear to be growing on the ground nearby, where it is attached to an unseen root.
It is sometimes mentioned as a lookalike for the much sought after edibles, Laetiporus sulphureus (Chicken of the woods) or Grifola frondosa (Hen of the woods).
When I pulled a piece off for closer inspection, the white meaty flesh looked pretty tasty to me, so I took a bit extra in case it was edible but by the time I got them home, they had darkened, rather unappetisingly…
Common names do include Black-staining Polypore, or Blackening Polypore, so this was a key identifier (My chopping board still bares the stains!).
I found mixed reports on edibilty… Roger Phillips (Mushrooms) stated “Edible but can be a little bitter” whilst First Nature appeared distinctly cynical towards reported edibility, advising, “they have been known to cause stomach upsets in some people and so are probably best avoided altogether. (There are plenty of much tastier fungi, so why eat a cardboard taste-alike?)”.
Wild Food UK were more encouraging, suggesting, “Slightly sour but young specimens or soft edges of more mature specimens can be very pleasant and Agaric like.” but also advising, “Must be cooked before consumption but can still cause gastric upsets in a small amount of people.”
Well, I suppose edibility can be subjective, to an extent, (I mean, some people eat McDonalds!!) so I decided I would just have to try it for myself…
Cooking Giant Polypore
I sliced the tender parts thinly (you can let the knife to guide you in avoiding the tougher bits) and fried gently in olive oil, slowly to allow the water content to evaporate first.
I added salt and pepper, and just toward the end a splash of mushroom stock, that I had prepared for making gravy, allowing it to reduce in the hot pan.
I tasted it…
OK, full disclosure; I can’t actually taste anything at the moment! Thanks to an unexpected and persistent cold. So when I say I tasted it, I mean I put it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed.
It was a pleasant experience. The texture was nice, and I detected a salty savoury flavour (that was probably the seasoning!).
I didn’t experience any negative effects, so I cooked the rest in the same way (without the stock) and put it in the freezer to try when I am in full possession of my senses again.
During the second cooking, my sense of smell, which was starting to kick in occasionally, detected a strong odour of wet dog, but still, I remain optimistic…
Update October 2020:
I’ve found several fresher specimens this year, so I’ve added some more photographs to the post.
I can also report that it is quite a tasty mushroom, with a similar texture to chicken meat. It has a high water content so reduces quite a lot. Has a strong mushroom smell during cooking but not as unpleasant as it first seemed.