Many people just starting out growing their own mushrooms will hear that they should start with oysters, but there a lot of oyster mushroom varieties you could start with. This article will cover some of the common oyster mushrooms species and help you get a better sense for the differences between them. Let’s dive in!
How Many Types of Oyster Mushroom Are There?
Oyster mushrooms occur in various forms worldwide! There are at least 30 distinct known species of oyster mushrooms, all in the family Pleurotaceae. While there are more mushrooms that are refereed to as oysters, modern genetics and cross breed testing has caused others to be reclassified in more recent years.
In addition to the known species, there are likely more undiscovered or unclassified variants of this highly diverse family still out there. Discovering these is one the things that makes mycology so fun!
Common Varieties of Oyster Mushrooms
Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus)
In North America this is the most common form of the oyster mushroom. It is easy to cultivate and wildly forgiving when it comes to variations in temperature and humidity. These factors make it a clear choice for beginner growers. They have white stalks and gills and slightly greyer cap surface. Pearl oysters grow in tight groups from a single cluster.
Blue Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus columbinus)
Blue Oyster mushrooms unfortunately are not a vibrant blue in color, instead they are more grey. The name comes from the slight blue color their gills can take on as they age. They have much darker caps than the pearl oyster and often grow rounder caps in even tighter clusters. Blue oysters have a lot of variety between themselves and different mushrooms may even have varying colors and morphological traits and this is simply because they are a varient of pearl oysters themselves.
Being a variant they are not a separate species and may even cross breed successfully with pearl oysters. If you are into genetics and cross breeding, having variety within the species makes this especially exciting as it allows for more options as a grower to target and breed for specific traits.
Golden Oyster (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)
Unlike the blue oyster hardly being blue, the golden oyster is actually a bright golden color. The mushrooms often have narrower stems with frilled caps and are golden throughout. Many believe that golden oysters have a stronger flavor which is more complex than the more mild varieties available.
Pink Oyster (Pleurotus djamor)
Pink oysters are also true to their name. Another common starter mushroom for first time growers, they seem to attract people with their beautiful presentation. Interestingly enough, the color actually fades from the mushrooms when cooked and they end up looking similar to their pearl cousins.
The pink oyster mushroom tends to grow flatter and more stacked up than other oyster varieties. The surface of the caps also has more texture and the whole mushroom ends up being firmer and more woody overall. The flavors of the pink oyster can be stronger when cooked, but it is still edible and a common treat.
It is worth noting that there are several species names that may be used for the pink oyster, though all the mushrooms appear similar and can interbreed. In time the other species may be acknowledged as being the same and could be consolidated into variations. Pleurotus djamor is the preferential scientific name, but sellers often use P. salmoneo-stramineus interchangeably.
Phoenix Oyster (Pleurotus pulmonarius)
The phoenix oyster mushroom is like a small pearl oyster in appearance. The caps are more rounded and paler in color. The mushrooms themselves also grow in different season than their pearl cousins. The phoenix oyster likes a warmer climate and typically is a summer growth mushroom. This is a good potential mushroom for people to grow if they live in hotter climates and have trouble regulating temperature.
As far as flavors go the phoenix oyster tastes similar to the pearl oyster and is very mild and meaty. It has a soft and tender texture and is not very distinct in any other culinary uses.
King Oyster (Pleurotus tuber-regium)
The King oyster mushroom is known for being the largest of the oysters. Its stem is thick and meaty and its cap is typically concave on the top. The stems are a pleasant white beige and the caps are brown. These mushrooms also prefer slightly warmer climates in nature and grow wildly in the Mediterranean and mild east.
The king oyster tends to grow with fewer mushrooms in a cluster and often grows more upright than the other oysters. Because of this the mushroom is perfect for bottle cultivation and is often mass produced in growing bottles on commercial farms. The king oyster has a similar flavor profile to pearl oyster mushrooms and generally is used in similar fashions when cooking.
Which Variety Is Right For Me?
If you’re just starting out, the pearl oyster is going to be your safest bet for success. While all of these mushrooms can be cultivated indoors and are easy enough to grow, the pearl oyster has been domesticated and selected long enough now that most varieties you get will be hearty enough to forgive simple mistakes or imperfect conditions.
The pearl oyster likes a warmer spawning temperature, around 75F (24C) but will easily fruit at 65-70F (18-21C). Failure to provide perfect temperatures will not result in aborted mushrooms typically. Instead, you are likely to only get longer wait times for growth and cultivation. Pearl oysters are so hearty, in fact, that you can grow them outdoors if you’re willing to wait for 6 months to a year for them to colonize a log or stump. Outdoor growth can even yield many more repeat flushes than indoor if you’re patient!
If you’re looking more to something ornamental, the pink oyster is a better bet when starting out. They are much tougher and have a more pungent flavor which could make them less desirable for cooking at home, but they are beautiful and common varieties are easy to grow indoors. Pink oyster mushrooms also like a hotter fruiting temperature (between 65-85F) so they are a good choice for warm climates.
No matter what you pick, as long as you monitor and maintain a good environment for your oyster mushrooms, you’re likely to find success with these easily. All oyster mushroom species are wood loving and grow simply on master’s mix.
Simple Start for Oyster Mushrooms
If you’re interested in growing oyster mushrooms and want to get started simply, you can try an easy bucket method. The method doesn’t really need as much early investment and has a great success chance for beginners with little to no equipment. If you’re already ready to take things more seriously you might want to look at the rest of the blog to read the guides you’ll need to start scaling up!