Foraged Mushroom 7: Beefsteak Fungus

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Fistulina hepatica

A mushroom that resembles raw meat is enough to intrigue anyone, even a vegetarian, like me!

So, of course, I was able to recognise this fungus, as soon as I spotted it!  

Fistulina hepatica
Spore surface of Fistulina hepatica

I collected this smaller younger specimen, which also has the weight and density you would expect from a hunk of flesh, rather than a mushroom.

Identification

Fistulina hepatica is a Bracket fungus which can usually be found between late summer and autumn growing on the base of old or dead trees. Primarily Oak or Sweet Chestnut. 

The infected Oak wood is highly prized by furniture makers as the fungus causes brown rot, imparting a deep rich colour to the timber. This is called Brown Oak

You’re unlikely to confuse it with anything else, particularly once you start slicing…  

Sliced beefsteak fungus
Fistulina hepatica sliced
Beefsteak Mushroom

Eat, Drink, Chew

Beefsteak is often described as having a sour, acidic flavour, and recommended raw in salads. It is generally advised to cook wild mushrooms, this is one of the few exceptions.

When I tried a piece, I was surprisingly surprised to find the texture quite as you’d expect of a mushroom. Though my eyes had told my brain to expect otherwise. 
Whilst pondering what to do with it, I saw that Mark Williams had shared a photo of this fungus on his facebook page, so I asked for recipe suggestions.
“Minimal cooking”, was the advice. “Marinating ceviche style with oils and vinegars”, brushing with miso or other glaze and dehydrating for a mushroom jerky or infuse in vodka for an “interesting spirit.”

I decided to try all three!

Marinating Beefsteak fungus
Beefsteak fungus

Salad:

I sliced thinly and added Olive Oil, and Apple Cider Vinegar, with salt and pepper. And whilst I considered how on Earth I was going to make this taste good, the mushrooms concentrated on perfecting it’s raw liver impression… 
Beefsteak and Dandelion Salad

Having recently learned to counter the bitterness of Dandelion Greens with something acidic, I wondered if it could work the other way too. Raw Garlic seemed a sensible addition, and finally something sweet… I decided on grated raw beetroot, but had to wait another day for my veg delivery; giving the mushroom plenty more time to erm.. Yuckify itself!   

I finely chopped the Dandelion Greens with a little Herb Robert, having already added crushed garlic to the mushroom, and mixed it all together with some fresh grated Beetroot.

I’d like to tell you how at this point, everything came together deliciously… but it’s simply not true.

Beefsteak mushroom and dandelion salad
Fistulina hepatica salad

Garlic was the dominating flavour, which is not a bad thing, and overall the taste was alright but the slimy texture of the mushroom was frankly dreadful! 

Vodka:

This was a bad idea! 
I kind of knew it was a bad idea when I was making it, and it suddenly dawned on me that interesting can be a fickle word… 
Mushroom Vodka
Beefsteak Vodka

To be honest, it’s taken me a while to write this because I obviously had to taste it to tell you what I thought, but…. I just couldn’t get past the smell!

My neighbour volunteered to try it first, and this is the face he made…

He also said a lot of bad words and that it was the most disgusting thing he’d ever tasted. Before swiftly changing tactics and trying to convince me that it really wasn’t that bad at all and I should definitely taste it! Hmm.

Fistulina hepatica Vodka

Well, having spent a week avoiding this moment, I guess the right combination of wine and peer pressure was just what I needed, so Cheers!

The Foraging Foodie

I hadn’t even swallowed it when this photo was taken and my neighbour was laughing too hard to take another one! 

The Verdict:

To be honest, I had by this point built myself up to expect something so horrific that it actually wasn’t quite as bad as I’d imagined. But let me clear, it was bad.

Mushroom Jerky:

By now you are probably wondering if anything good is going to come out of this mushroom. Well, all is not lost! Of course, there are loads of other preparations I have yet to try but I can at least end on a high note because the Jerky was excellent! 

Mushroom Jerky
Dried Fistulina hepatica

I mixed a little Miso paste with water and marinated the slices for a bit before dehydrating. It was really tasty and will be interesting to experiment with different flavours (I’m thinking smokey with a bit of heat perhaps).

Marinating beefsteak fungus
Dehydrating fistulina hepatica

Beefsteak Fungus: Conclusion

I had fun experimenting with this mushroom! I’ve read very mixed opinions on the best way to eat it but as with anything, it’s a matter of personal taste and preference. 
I really hope to find some more and try cooking it as a meat alternative among other things. 

Have you tried it? Do you have any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks For Reading!

Happy Foraging Foodies!

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