Eastern Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains in October. It had been raining for what felt like a month, and we were finally getting a much needed break from it. I pulled on my rain boots, put a light jacket on, and headed down the long, muddy dirt road that would lead me deep into the woods.
It was quiet, except for the splashing of my boots through the puddles, and the sound of frogs, crickets and other little creatures running through the leaves and brush in the woods all around me. Off in the distance I could hear the creek as it made its way over the rocks and branches, before meeting up with yet another creek further down into the woods.
I had been walking these trails and paths each day now, for the better part of a month. There are so many of them, that very seldom did I find myself retracing the same path more than once or twice. It is easy to get turned around so deep into the woods, so I always made sure to pay very close attention to every turn I would take that would put me on a new path.
It is amazing what you find, when you are paying such close attention to your surroundings.
It was on these walks, that I discovered I had a new found interest in, of all things, mushrooms!
I came across so many different mushrooms out in those woods, that I decided to start looking them up. Most of them were growing on fallen trees that had been dead for years, or in the rich soil all around the live trees.
There was one though, not like the others. It wasn’t growing abundantly in little groups along the dead, fallen trees. There, on the side of a tall tree, was a large white growth. It was high enough up, that it almost went unnoticed. I had never seen a mushroom like this before. To be honest, at the moment, I wasn’t even positive it was a mushroom!
I took a picture of it, and headed back.
We plugged the photo into an app I had downloaded, and found out that this particular mushroom, Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion’s Mane, is not only edible, it is considered to be a sought after superfood!
We put a ladder into the bed of the truck, and headed back out to where it was.
We very carefully removed it from the trunk of the tree, making sure to leave enough that it would grow back again.
We harvested this mushroom at the perfect time! It was large and pure white (if they have a yellowed or pink tint to them, they are no longer good for harvesting, as they are too far along in the growing cycle to have good flavor).
When harvested at the correct time, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are both healthy for you (they contain as much as 20 percent protein), and they taste delicious (when cooked, they taste like lobster or crab).
We were very excited to get this mushroom home and see if it was as good as everything we were reading!
Preparing the Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Preparing this mushroom was pretty easy. Once we harvested it from the tree, we checked it over pretty good for bugs and dirt. To remove any dirt, simply just brush it off with a soft bristled brush.
We knew we were not going to be able to eat this mushroom all in one sitting, so, first I wanted to prepare some of it to be frozen.
Lion’s Mane freezes well, and will keep for about a year in the freezer if done properly.
First, slice the mushroom into steaks about a half inch thick. Saute them in a pan with a little bit of oil – they are high in water content, so sauteeing them will help them freeze better. If you like, you can sprinkle with a little bit of salt and garlic, but I chose to just leave ours plain for now.
Once they have been sauteed, you can remove them from the pan, and place them on a paper towel to cool completely.
Once cooled, I portioned them into batches of 2-3 steaks each, and sealed them with our food saver.
They were now ready to store in the freezer.
Of course, we couldn’t freeze all of it! We needed to cook some up so that we could see for ourselves if this was the super good, super food we were reading about!
Super good recipes we’ve made with Lion’s Mane
Lion’s Mane Grilled Cheese
To try our Lion’s Mane for the first time, I wanted just a simple recipe. Any simpler, and I wouldn’t have been making anything! 🙂 Not to mention, nothing goes better with a chilly, damp Fall day, than a grilled cheese sandwich! I like to think of it as more of a gourmet grilled cheese!
In a pan, melt about a tablespoon of butter (plant or regular, whichever you normally use). Once butter melts, add a slice of Lion’s Mane and a few slices of onion.
Saute until the Lion’s Mane is golden brown and the edge (the mane) is crispy.
Remove onions and mushrooms from pan.
Butter 2 slices of bread, as you would for regular grilled cheese.
Lay both slices in the pan next to each other. Place cheese (of your choice. I used plant swiss) on each slice of bread. Place the mushroom and onions on top of the cheese. Place another slice of cheese on top of that. Place another slice of bread on top of each. You can either butter the outside of those slices as well, or, you can melt butter in the pan and just flip them (this is what I did).
Once your bread is golden brown, and your cheese has melted, remove from the pan.
You are now ready to enjoy this gourmet grilled cheese!
It really was like biting into a hot, cheesy, crab sandwich! It was so good!!
Lion’s Mane Pasta
Next up, I thought I would get a little more creative with our prized mushroom. Now that we knew how much we liked it, and that it really does taste like shellfish (crab, lobster, scallop), I wanted to try it in a pasta dish.
About 2 cups of pasta (your choice. I used a mix of whatever we had on hand), cooked according to package directions. (Do not overcook) (Save 2 cups of the pasta water once it is cooked)
3-4 Lion’s Mane steaks
About 6 sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
4 tablespoons butter (plant or regular)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 cup cooking Sherry
1 teaspoon basil
2 teaspoons oregano
2 tablespoons parsley
Parmesan Cheese (plant based or regular)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the mushrooms into strips, about an inch wide.
In a hot skillet, add olive oil, shallot, onion and garlic. Saute just until tender.
Add the carrot, and saute until there is still just a slight crunch to it.
Add the butter and the mushrooms.
When the butter melts, add the Sherry and cook down.
Once the Sherry has been reduced, add the peas, the salt, pepper and herbs.
Add the reserved pasta water.
Place the mushroom mix back into the pot with the drained pasta. Add olives. Mix together.
Serve in a bowl or on a plate, with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top.
This looks like a lot of ingredients and steps, but if you prep everything ahead, it all comes together very quickly! The combination of flavors and textures makes this meal seem fancy, without actually being fancy. 🙂
Creamy Mushroom Tortellini
I’m choosing this recipe, because it not only has Lion’s Mane mushrooms in it, but I also used some Pink Pearl Oyster mushrooms as well. Also, I made this as a plant-based dish, but, you can make it with dairy ingredients, if you prefer.
1 Package Tortellini (I used Kite Hill, which is a great plant-based Tortellini)
1 cup sliced Pearl mushrooms
1-2 Lion’s Mane mushroom steaks, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sundried tomato, chopped
fresh basil, rosemary and thyme, about 1 generous tablespoon each
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dill
1 cup sour cream (I used Forager plant-based)
In a skillet, heat olive oil. Add sundried tomato, shallot and garlic. Sautee until the shallot is soft, but not browned.
Add Mushrooms, Basil, Rosemary and Thyme. Sautee until mushrooms are just becoming golden. Remove from heat.
Cook tortellini according to package directions.
While tortellini is cooking, mix together the sour cream, lemon zest and dill. Set aside until tortellini is cooked.
Drain tortellini, and mix the sour cream mixture into it.
Place a serving of the tortellini in a bowl or on a plate. Top with the mushroom mixture. Enjoy!
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have become one of our favorite mushrooms to look for when we are out stomping around in the woods. It was just by chance that we even came upon the one we did, but in doing so, we have learned a lot about them, and have certainly enjoyed finding ways to prepare them. They are definitely a super food with many health and nutrition benefits – high in protein, Vitamin D and Potassium. It is full of antioxidants and antibacterial compounds. All of this, plus the benefit of a great taste makes the Lion’s Mane mushroom worth hunting for!
If you aren’t into mushroom foraging, but want to give Lion’s Mane a try, it is becoming quite popular at farmer markets. Be on the lookout the next time you are at a local market! You won’t regret it! 🙂