Fistulina hepatica: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Fistulina hepatica Mushroom
Fistulina hepatica is an unusual bracket fungus classified in the Agaricales, that is commonly seen in Britain, but can be found in North America, Australia, North Africa, Southern Africa and the rest of Europe. It looks like a slab of red meat clinging to a stump or a tree. Its flesh is soft and streaked-looking, and when the mushroom is fresh it exudes a blood-like juice when squeezed. Its tubes are particularly distinctive since they are individually discreet.
When young and fresh, the tender fruit bodies of Fistulina hepatica are edible. Although when sliced into strips they look very much like beef steaks, they are rather acidic and slightly bitter, and they do not taste at all like beef.
Other names: Beefsteak Fungus, Tongue Mushroom, Ox-tongue.
Fistulina hepatica Identification
Saprobic and sometimes weakly parasitic on the wood of oaks and other hardwoods; causing a brown rot; annual; growing alone or in small groups near the bases of trees and on stumps; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America but much more common east of the Rocky Mountains.
7–20 cm across; 7–14 cm deep; irregular in shape but often semicircular, fan-shaped, or tongue-like, with a lobed and wavy margin; wet and sticky when fresh; finely bumpy; bald; liver red, reddish-orange, or brownish-red.
White to pale pinkish, becoming yellowish and eventually reddish-brown in age; bruising brown; tubes distinctly separated, to 1.5 cm long, mouths circular.
Absent, or rudimentary and lateral; colored like the cap above, below whitish and covered with the pore surface; firm.
Whitish, streaked with reddish areas; thick; soft; watery; exuding a reddish juice when squeezed.
Odor and Taste
Odor not distinctive; taste sour or acidic.
Spores 3–4 x 2–3 µm; widely amygdaliform to subellipsoid or sublacrymoid; smooth; hyaline to yellowish in KOH. Basidia 4-sterigmate. Pleurocystidia not found. Hyphal ends at tube mouths cheilocystidium-like; 5–7 µm wide; cylindric to subfusiform with subacute apices; smooth; hyaline or golden in KOH; moderately thick-walled. Hyphal system monomitic. Clamp connections present.
Inonotus hispidus is a similar large reddish-orange bracket with a hairy upper surface; it occurs most often on dead and dying oak and apple trees.
Fistulina hepatica Taxonomy & Etymology
Described in 1784 by Jacob Christian Schaeffer, who named it Boletus hepaticus, this common bracket fungus was given its present scientific name in 1792 by William Withering (1741 - 1749), a British botanist best known for his discovery of the active ingredient in a Foxglove-derived herbal remedy that was shown to have a marked positive effect on sufferers from dropsy (a heart condition). Nowadays we know that substance as digitalis.
Fistulina, the genus name of the Beefsteak Fungus, means 'with little pipes or tubes'. What makes Fistulina fungi different from other polypores is that the walls of each tube are separate rather than being shared with neighboring tubes. The specific name hepatica is a reference to the liver-like appearance of mature Beefsteak Fungus brackets.
Fungi in the genus Fistulina are distinguished by having tubes that are separated from their neighbors. In contrast, most other polypores have tubes that are securely fused.
Recipe: Fistulina hepatica Tartare With Toasted Pine Nut-Coriander Crumble
1/2 cup finely diced beefsteak mushroom
3/4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts
1.5 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp finely diced onion chives
1 tbsp wood sorrel leaves
basil flowers/leaves, melon flowers, squash flowers, fennel, other seasonal ingredients as-needed or as your garden or foraging excursions allow
salt, to taste (add a pinch to pine nut-coriander crumble + pinch to diced mushrooms after they're removed from the fridge)
1 tbsp butter or olive oil if you're sautéing squash flowers
Finely dice beefsteak mushroom and place in a bowl. Add lemon juice, and stir until evenly coated. Cover and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Toast pine nuts and coriander seeds with a pinch of salt over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until just toasted (pine nuts lightly golden and coriander seeds highly fragrant). Put in a pestle and let cool to room temp for 15 minutes. Once cool, grind into crumble/paste. (You can also use a blender if you don't have mortar & pestle.) Spoon onto the plate to form a bed for other ingredients.
Remove mushrooms from the fridge and mix in onion chives and sorrel leaves. Pack into a small bowl, then turn upside down onto pine nut-coriander bed, maintaining the rounded shape of the bowl. Garnish and serve.
Recipe: Butter-boiled Beefsteak
450g Beefsteak Fungus
3 cloves garlic
Pepper and salt
Clean and cut the beefsteak fungus into fine slices and place in a frying pan with finely chopped shallots and garlic. Barely cover with water and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the water has taken on a red hue. Add pepper, salt, thyme, and a generous knob of butter and cook until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.
After you have cranked the heat up and reduced the sauce to a thick, creamy consistency simply put on a piece of toast or enjoy on its own, feel-good food at its best, a real warmer on a chilly autumnal eve.
Although the firm flesh of the mushroom is in itself no gastronomic big-hitter (though still perfectly pleasant), the flavor of the sauce is magnificent.
Recipe: Beefsteak Mushroom and Lentils
100g of beefsteak mushroom
200g of green lentils
200ml of red wine ( 1 large glass )
1 pint of water
1 tbsp of wholegrain mustard
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Small bunch of thyme
Salt and pepper
Thickly slice the beefsteak mushroom
Cover with the red wine, add the garlic and several sprigs of thyme
Leave to marinate for 30 minutes
After marinading in a lidded saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the lentils, simmer for 10 minutes
Pour into the lentils, the mushrooms, and the marinade
Allow simmering for a further 15 minutes
Add a little more water if it begins to look dry
Serve with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.
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