Fistulina hepatica – Beefsteak fungus

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The Beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) is a rare mushroom that can be found July-October.
The Beefsteak fungus resembles a tongue sticking out of a tree when it is young. As it ages, it flattens out and resembles a slab of raw meet. The cap is colored blood-red. The flesh is pale pink with red streaks. The mushroom exudes a red juice when cut.
The underside of the mushroom has white or pale-yellow pores that stain dark brown when bruised. Although the Beefsteak fungus has pores, it is more closely related to gilled fungi.
The Beefsteak fungus is most often found on dead or dying oak trees. It is also occasionally found on sweet chestnuts. The mushroom is parasitic, causing brown rot to trees. Oak timber infected with brown rot is valued by wood turners and cabinet makers.
Although the Beefsteak fungus resembles meat in appearance, the taste is sour and acidic. It is thought that the mushroom produces acid as a defense mechanism against insects.
Unlike most mushrooms, young Beefsteak fungus can be eaten raw. The mushroom can be chopped and soaked in lemon juice in the fridge for 30 minutes to break down lignin and kill potential pathogens. The mushroom can then be served as tartar.
Older Beefsteak fungus must be cooked. It can be sliced and soaked in milk for several hours before frying or grilling.
There is little research on the medicinal compounds in the Beefsteak fungus, perhaps since it is so rare. However, the fungus has been used to treat viral fevers in Nepal.
Beefsteak fungus could potentially be mistaken for the inedible Shaggy bracket (Inonotus hispidus), but this mushroom is yellow and becomes tough quickly.

Written by Amy Demers, founder of the Connecticut Foraging Club. To learn more about foraging in Connecticut, check out our upcoming classes.

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