One of the most beautiful and easily-recognizable mushrooms that are just starting to appear in the woods nearby are crown-tipped Coral Mushrooms.
Aptly named, coral mushrooms resemble common corals you would see off the coast.
It is characterized by it’s soft tan or white color, crown-like tips, and the many, thin, branches, bunched together, between two and five inches high.
The tips of each branch will be topped with a small crown.
They tend to grow directly on dead wood, especially aspen, oak, poplar and willow trees.
They are edible and have an earthy, mild, woodsy flavor with a slight peppery aftertaste, but with a word of caution.
They can cause gastrointestinal upset in some people, but not often. When trying them for the first time, eat just a little and see how your stomach reacts.
Coral mushrooms tend to be in season from June to September, depending on your location.
Try to pick the whitest mushrooms, as they become tan and brown as they age and will take on a mushy consistency – unless that’s your thing, then go for it!
Coral Mushrooms Look-alikes
There are two coral mushroom look alikes: Clavulina rugosa and Clavulina cinerea.
Clavulina rugosa is commonly known as wrinkled coral fungus and do not have branches like Clavulina cristata. Clavulina cinerea is usually darker in color and for that reason is commonly called gray coral.
Click the links to see the pictures of the differences between all three.
The rule of thumb when foraging for crown-tip coral mushroom is to only pick those with bright white or light tan coloring.
All of the toxic lookalikes are brightly colored red or purple.
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Cooking Coral Mushrooms
Crown-tip coral mushrooms contain protein, potassium, and trace amounts of copper, magnesium, and calcium.
They also contain essential amino acids and antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Before cooking, break them into smaller pieces and clean them thoroughly, as the thin branches tend to trap dirt and debris.
Soak them in a sink full of cool water. Then dry thoroughly in the fridge.
Corals tend to get soft and mushy very quickly, so they’re best added to soups and stocks. You can flash fry them in a pan, but avoid long exposure to high heat.
If you add them to a soup, like a miso for example, do so just before serving to avoid the prolonged exposure to heat.
Another great way to have them is scrambled with eggs or add them to an omelette.
To avoid them getting mushy, you can also serve them raw, cut up into bite-sized chunks and tossed in a salad with similarly sized bites of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, etc.
Coral Mushrooms do not dry well, however you can pickle them:
Pickling Coral Mushrooms
Makes 6 1/2 pint jars
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 lbs Coral mushrooms, the younger and more firm the better
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 2 cloves of garlic, whacked with the back of a knife
- Break the coral mushrooms into bite-sized chunks and wash them.
- Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Divide the coral mushrooms up among your 1/2 pint canning jars and add the hot pickling liquid to full (leaving a 1/2 inch of head room).
More Recipes Using Coral Mushrooms
Recipes for crown corals, or where they can be substituted easily.