swe.: Blomkålsvamp | nor.: Blomkålsopp | fin.: Kurttusieni | dt.: Krause Glucke, Fette Henne
The cauliflower mushroom is enrichment in every kitchen – easy to identify, big and very tasty. Unlike most mushrooms it has a firm to crispy bite almost like noodles. For us S. crispa ranks among the best mushrooms out there and we make sure to be there when the season starts – usually in autumn.
Appearance of the cauliflower mushroom
The mushroom is usually easily identified due to it’s large size and dense, countless interconnected coils, which in the broadest sense are reminiscent of pasta or even a picture of a brain. The most common confusion is with its close relative Sparassis brevipes that usually live on hardwood as oak. It is bigger with broader folds and also edible but considered less tasty. In very rare cases they might also be mistaken for species from the genus Ramaria better known as coral mushrooms (goat’s beard, golden coral). Careful there since the genus Ramaria hosts some poisonous specimen that should be avoided.
diameter: up to 30 cm and more
months: August – November
structure: elastic, tough, rubbery, brittle
habitat: root network of pine, sometimes on other coniferous wood as spruce.
There are also some bad news though – the cauliflower mushroom is not easiest to find and in some areas you will spend seasons without finding one. The good news is, once you are lucky to find one you are usually to encounter more in the same area – so open your eyes. And it gets even better since the mushroom (fruiting body) is set to appear every year in the same place if harvested correctly. So mark your spot and be there next season in time.
The parasitic existence of the cauliflower mushroom
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. S. crispa is a parasitic mushroom and especially trees will suffer an infestation. The fungus penetrates the tree where the roots are injured and causes the wood to rot there. While forest rangers and wood owners might not be pleased by its appearance the mushroom enthusiast is very appreciative. Cauliflower mushrooms also have marked value and are cultivated in some parts of the world.
Habitat of the cauliflower mushroom
Cauliflower mushrooms can be found all over the northern hemisphere and in Europe reaching as far North as the southern coastal regions of Scandinavia, especially Sweden.
Kitchen use of the cauliflower mushroom
The raw meat is somewhat gristly, the smell aromatic and the texture slightly rubbery. When prepared, couliflower mushrooms are firm to the bite and tasty. Some compare the taste even to that of the common morel. Even when cut, it can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for a week or more, but it can also be used in a dried form for sauces.
Sparassisa crispa makes a great contribution to different soups and can be used as noodle substitute along with different sauces. They are also very popular fried and often mixed with egg. A good addition are also vegetables like eggplant, sorrel, carrots, celery, onions and different herbs such as parsley, thyme and basil.
Cleaning the cauliflower mushroom
The cleaning of the fruiting body from slightly ingrown soil residues is a bit complicated and can be a painful prcedure. Due to its dense structure a lot of unwanted guests and dirt can get trapped inside – so make sure to inspect it properly before cooking it. There are tow main options we propose:
- Dip the mushroom briefly in boiling water. This gives it more elasticity and makes it easier to rinse under running water. Since couliflower mushrooms do not absorb a lot of moisture you are save even if you are frying them.
- Cut the mushroom in 2 – 3 cm thick slices and put it in a bowl of water. This makes it easier to remove pine needles and unwanted inhabitants.
Our recipe of choice we only dip the raw mushroom in egg and fry it.
Sparassis crispa – 400 g
Egg – 1
Olive oil – 3 sp
Parsley – ½ table spoon
Salt, pepper – on demand
- Clean the cauliflower mushroom properly. Make sure to get rid of all uninvited guests
- Cut the mushrooms in bite-sized pieces. If you have a very large specimen you can also cut 2 cm thick slices.
- Put the egg in a bowl and dip the mushroom pieces into it until the whole mushroom is covered.
- Heat up the butter in a pan and fry the cauliflower mushroom from both sides.
- Add salt, pepper and the parsley after turning the mushrooms for the first time
- Fry until they get a golden crisp texture. Usually around 2 minutes per side will do.
- Serve with (dark) bread or toast
Sparassis brevipes can be prepared in a similar way. It can have a thougher texture though and will not meet everyones standard. The best thing is to try for yourself.
We have compiled this overview with the best of knowledge and belief, but do not claim to be complete and reserve the right to make errors.
Learn more about poisonous mushrooms and mushroom poisons here