Ramaria Botrytis: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Ramaria Botrytis Mushroom
Ramaria Botrytis is an edible species of coral fungus in the family Gomphaceae. Its robust fruit body can grow up to 15 cm (6 in) in diameter and 20 cm (8 in) tall, and resembles some marine coral. Its dense branches, which originate from a stout, massive base, are swollen at the tips and divided into several small branchlets.
The branches are initially whitish but age to buff or tan, with tips that are pink to reddish. The flesh is thick and white. The spores, yellowish in deposit, are ellipsoid, feature longitudinal striations, and measure about 13.8 by 4.7 micrometers.
The overall impression, at least when Ramaria botrytis is young, is reminiscent of cauliflower. Older specimens can develop elongated branches more typical of the genus, and can be harder to identify.
Other names: Clustered Coral, The Pink-Tipped Coral Mushroom, The Cauliflower Coral, Rosso coral, Clavaire chou-fleur (French), Hahnenkamm (German), Druvfingersvamp (Swedish), Houkitake (Japanese).
Ramaria Botrytis Identification
Mycorrhizal; growing alone, scattered, or in groups under hardwoods or conifers; summer and fall (also winter and spring in warm climates); widely distributed in North America.
7-20 cm high; 6-30 cm wide; stocky; repeatedly short-branched.
Densely packed; basal branches thick, smooth, and whitish; terminal branches crowded, short, and pink to purplish or red; tips cauliflower-like, especially when young.
3-4 cm long; to 6 cm wide; whitish, developing yellowish or brownish colors.
Odor and Taste
Odor not distinctive; taste mild or bitter.
Iron salts green on branch tips.
Spores 11-20 x 4-6 µ (usually about 14-16 x 5 µ); subfusoid to stretched-elliptical; finely stippled; by maturity the ornamentation aggregated into very faint lines, creating a twisted-striate effect (best observed in a Melzer's mount). Basidia 4-sterigmate; clavate; 60-70 x 8-10 µ. Cystidia absent. Clamp connections present.
Ramaria Botrytis Similar Species
has reddish terminal branches, a stout form, and striate spores, but may be distinguished from R. botrytis by its much shorter spores.
Has branches that are pinker than R. botrytis, and yellow-tipped.
Found in the Great Lakes region of the United States, whose branch tips darken with age.
Has yellow to brown branch tips.
Has branches in which the pink color fades after picking or in mature fruit bodies.
Is most reliably distinguished from R. botrytis by its smooth spores.
The European species, often confused with R. botrytis and sometimes considered synonymous, can be distinguished by microscopic characteristics: R. reilii lacks the clamped hyphae of R. botrytis, its spores are longer and wider, and they have warts instead of striations.
The North American species, though superficially similar to R. botrytis, has several distinguishing characteristics: it grows under hemlock; it has reddish to magenta branches with orange to yellowish tips; it lacks any discernible odor; it has warted, somewhat cylindrical spores averaging 9.9 by 3.7 µm; and it has non-amyloid stem tissue.
Uniformly colored bright pink to reddish has spores measuring 7–9 by 3–3.5 µm.
Ramaria Botrytis Medicinal Properties
One study demonstrated that the methanol extract of R. botrytis had a protective effect on liver damage in benzo(a)pyrene-treated mice. The activities of marker liver enzymes serum aminotransferase, cytochrome P-450, aminopyrine N-demethylase, aniline hydroxylase and hepatic content of lipid peroxide after benzo(a)pyrene-treatment were increased relative to the control, but those levels were significantly decreased by the treatment of methanol extract, whereas the hepatic glutathione content and activities of glutathione S-transferase and r-glutamylcysteine synthetase were increased by the treatment of R. botrytis methanol extract.
Also, the cytochrome P-450 1A1 isozyme protein level, increased by benzo(a)pyrene-treatment, was decreased by the treatment with methanol extract. The authors suggest that the protective effect of the R. botrytis methanol extract on liver injury may be due to reduction of oxygen free radicals (Kim and Lee, Korean J Food Sci Technol. 2003 354: 286-290.).
Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of R. botrytis and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 60% (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).
Ramaria Botrytis Taxonomy & Etymology
Rosso Coral fungus was described in 1797 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who gave it the scientific name Clavaria botrytis. It was German mycologist Adalbert Ricken (1851 - 1921) who in 1918 redescribed this species under its currently-accepted scientific name Ramaria botrytis.
Synonyms of Ramaria botrytis include Clavaria botrytis Pers., and Clavaria botrytis var. alba A. Pearson.
Ramaria, the generic name, comes from Ram- meaning branch, with the suffix -aria meaning possessing or furnished with. Ramaria coral species are indeed furnished with numerous branches.
The specific epithet botrytis is derived from the Latin for a 'bunch of grapes', and I can only assume that Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who created the basionym of this species, had not seen a vineyard in anything other than years of the most disappointing harvests.
There are several very similar Ramaria coral species and they are very difficult to identify with certainty. Microscopic examination of spores and basidia is essential in most instances. The chunky white base of Ramaria botrytis is one of its most helpful distinguishing features.
Ramaria Botrytis Cooking Notes
These are a breeze to work with. The tight branching means they often don’t get debris stuck in them. Trim the dirt off the base in the field, as much to remove dirt as to inspect for larvae (yes the bugs like these, but it’s not horrible). Compared to other mushrooms, they usually don’t require much more work, just swish a cluster in cold water and dry on a towel.
Recipe: Milwaukee Rice with Coral Mushrooms, Lamb Bacon and Lotus Root
1 duck egg
2 oz lamb bacon finely chopped (sausage can be substituted)
3-4 ounces fresh Ramaria/coral mushrooms cleaned and broken into clusters the size of a walnut shell
2 green onions sliced thin
A good handful of watercress picked, cleaned and any woody stems removed
1 Lotus root optional
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes sriracha, or whatever spicy condiment you like
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked parched wild rice
2 tablespoons lard or cooking oil
Soy sauce and sesame oil optional, for garnishing
How to cook
Bring 3 cups of lightly water to a simmer and blanch the coral mushrooms until wilted, about 2 minutes, remove, drain and reserve. In a large saute pan or cast iron skillet, cook the duck egg in 1 tablespoon of the oil, whacking the yolk so the egg will cook flat and be easy to chop, do not over cook the egg or brown it.
When the egg is cooked, remove and reserve.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and render the bacon on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until some of the fat has come out.
Add the Ramaria and cook for two minutes more, add the lotus root and heat through, finally (and working quickly to avoid overcooking the lotus) toss in the rice, chili flakes and heat through.
Meanwhile, dice the egg and add to the mix. Turn the pan off.
Right before plating, fold in the watercress and the green onion.
Double-check the seasoning and adjust as needed, then serve immediately, garnishing with a few nice cress sprigs on top. Pass some soy at the table.
Recipe: Vietnamese Coral Mushroom-Chicken Noodle Soup
3 large chicken thighs
8 oz fresh Ramaria / coral mushrooms or other wild mushrooms, like the whole, small chanterelles, or hericium
Cooked rice stick noodles about 1 cup of cooked noodles per person.
Poaching liquid optional, the seasonings are just ideas
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
A good dash of fish sauce to taste preferably Red Boat brand
1 inch piece of ginger sliced
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 stalk of lemongrass bruised with the back of a knife and chopped into 1 inch lengths
A small handful of parsley or cilantro stems
½ inch piece of cinnamon stick or 1 star anise, crushed
1 tablespoon dried Szechuan peppercorns optional
1 small onion coarsely chopped
1 rib of celery coarsely chopped
1 small carrot coarsely chopped
5 whole cloves
Zest of ½ a lime
Fresh bean sprouts
Rue ram leaves Persicaria odorata/Vietnamese coriander
Fresh mint leaves
Hot chili oil sriracha, or another spicy condiment
Fresh sliced scallions
How to cook
Bring the ingredients for the poaching liquid to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, then add the chicken, bring the mixture back to a simmer, turn the heat off and allow the chicken to cool in the liquid and finish cooking with the residual heat.
When you can handle the chicken, remove it, discard the bones and shred the meat. If you want, save the skin, dry it, and bake until crisp like bacon for a garnish, you can also remove the skin before poaching for an even better result.
Strain the poaching liquid, then add it back to the pot with the mushrooms and simmer for another 20 minutes. Double-check the seasoning, adjust as needed, and keep hot.
Meanwhile, pour boiling water over the rice noodles and leave for a second or two, just to tenderize them.
Divide the noodles between large soup bowls, (discarding the water) add the chicken, then ladle over the boiling hot broth, dividing the mushrooms and broth evenly between the bowls. Serve with your choice of garnishes on the side.
Recipe: Seared Prawns with Kale and Coral / Ramaria Mushrooms
6 large prawns u-10 or u-12 are a fine size
4 oz lacinato kale stems removed, leaves cut into 2 inch squares
4 oz fresh ramaria cleaned, washed and dried if needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste
Fresh chopped Italian parsley a pinch
1/2 teaspoon high-quality fresh garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
How to cook
Break the coral mushroom into medium-sized pieces about the size of a walnut. If your coral mushroom is large, and clean, you might consider cooking it as a steak or a big hunk, by searing it in a pan and finishing in a hot oven. Heat the oil in a saute pan, then quickly sesaon the shrimp with salt and pepper just before they go in the pan. Do not move the shrimp once they're in the pan or they won't sear right.
When the prawns are golden brown on one side, flip them and add the coral mushrooms to the pan. Continue cooking with the pan on high heat for a minute or two, making sure to caramelize the mushrooms.
Discard the oil and add the unsalted butter to the pan, and continue cooking on high heat. When the butter is nut-brown, add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat and swirl for a moment to deepen the color of the garlic, being careful to let it get dark, but not burn.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, reduce by half, double-check the seasoning, season lightly with salt and squeeze of lemon and prepare to plate the dish.
Meanwhile, wilt the kale simply in a pan with a lid, a touch of butter and salt, without adding any color.
On two preheated dinner plates, arrange a bed of kale. Arrange 3 shrimp on each plate on top of the kale, then spoon the coral mushrooms and pan juices over the shrimp and around the plate and serve immediately.
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