Honey Mushroom

Armillaria mellea

Herbs gallery - Honey Mushroom

Common names

  • Honey Mushroom
  • Oak Mushroom

The honey mushroom is one of the very common mushrooms species. It is actually an umbrella name given to several varieties that don't have the same aspect, shape or color but tend to appear every season in the same areas. Their shape varies from round and small, resembling a bell, to large and flat. Their caps can be smooth or covered in scales; fibrils are pale brown or tan while the overall color is variable, from tan to red. Sometimes they are found isolated, but large colonies are also possible. They have in common the white spores as well as a honey color that gives them the popular name.

Honey mushrooms are very adaptable and can feed on both dead trees and living ones. Honey mushrooms can aggressively attack and kill oaks and other types of trees. They form rhizomorphs, which are mycelia with a shape that is similar to roots. The mycelium forms a network of filaments resembling small black roots that spread around in search of food material. They follow tree trunks, underground roots and even the shapes of rocks. If they reach another food source, they quickly consume it. For example, plants from the cabbage family are often attacked.

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The mycelium of the honey mushroom also creates an interesting effect in wet forests. A chemical produced by them makes logs glow during the night, with an eerie blue or green color. This spectacular phenomenon is also known as "fox fire".

Honey mushrooms are important for some plant species. Some orchids for example rely on them to protect their seeds until they start to feed themselves through photosynthesis. Certain orchid seedlings get their nutrients from the fungus for several years because they actually grow underground for the first part of their lives.

Young mushrooms that haven't opened yet and have a button-like shape are the most sought by people who harvest them as food. These have a firm flesh with a granular texture. Most people enjoy the slightly sweet taste. However, others consider them inedible because the surface is slightly gelatinous and the aftertaste can be bitter. Be careful when you consume it for the first time, since some cases of digestive disorders have been reported.

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Honey mushrooms are parasites and pathogens on hardwoods; sometimes they attack conifers as well. After a period of rain, rhizomorphs with a long black shape appear in sizeable clusters on wood. This typically happens during the autumn but in warmer areas it can be a year-round occurrence. These spread the mushroom from one three to another and cause a white rot with a pulpy consistency.

The caps have a convex shape and the sides can look square, on young specimens, at maturity they become convex or even flat. They have a diameter between 3.5 and 12 cm, with a tacky or dry surface, the margins display fine lines on old examples. Fresh mushrooms have a golden yellow color that becomes yellow or brown with age. Caps can be smooth or covered by a radial pattern of small yellow or brown scales concentrated in the center.

The stem also has gills that are either attached directly or run down on it. They are usually short, with a white color; however other colors like pink or brown are not uncommon. A partial veil is also present before the cap fully opens, with a white or yellow color.

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The stem has a diameter between 0.5 and 2 cm and is about 7-20 cm long. The top part is equal while the base is often tapering, since the species grows in clusters. It is usually smooth and durable, with a thin white ring that is quite resilient and has a yellow edge. Young specimens have a pastel yellow color, due to the veil that covers them. At maturity it is white or pink near the top, with a darker color on the lower part. The flesh doesn't change its aspect when sliced and remains white or pink.

Parts used

Mushroom.

Uses

Honey mushroom has excellent nutritional qualities and provide B-complex vitamins, beta D-glucan and 15 different types of amino acids. The intra-cellular beta glucan is particularly important, since it is a strong antioxidant that shields cells from the damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosts the immune response.

Consuming honey mushrooms is beneficial for many conditions. They can treat neurasthenia, the signs of essential and renal hypertension, as well as improve visions and cure opthalmia and night blindness. It is also useful against various issues of the digestive and respiratory tracts.

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A very interesting trait of honey mushrooms is their ability to boost the amount of blood that reaches the heart and the brain, without any dangerous increase in blood pressure. It actually reduces the heart rate, as well as vascular resistance, both peripheral and coronary. Honey mushroom is also a natural antiviral food.

Mushrooms in general are known for their content of vitamin D. This essential nutrient is normally produced inside the body with the help of sunlight and not sourced from food. It plays a vital role in the assimilation of minerals like calcium and phosphorous, so the extra amount supplied by mushrooms is extremely useful. Honey mushrooms actually provide the whole package because they include these two minerals as well, without the need of combining them with other foods.

This species is also rich in ergothioneine, a very strong antioxidant agent typical of mushrooms. Like all antioxidants, this compound neutralizes free agents while providing a boost to the immune system. The structure of this amino acid includes sulfur. Despite being a common chemical element, many people lack it without being aware of this fact. This antioxidant is extremely powerful and provides a significant increase in the body's immune reaction. Modern scientists believe that many chronic and lethal diseases can be traced to the action of free radicals. These are a by-product of the cell metabolism and can travel through the body, damaging tissues and cells in the process.

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Antibiotics, such as penicillin, are natural compounds found in mushrooms. These can kill a wide range of bacteria and prevent their growth. Consuming mushrooms also makes your immune system more effective, due to the content of polysaccharides and beta-glucans. These components are especially effective in preventing the development of infections on open wounds or ulcers. Your immune system is strengthened even further by the combination of vitamins A, B-complex and C.

Due to their nutritional composition, honey mushrooms are a great choice in weight loss diets. They provide a good amount of proteins, so the body must burn fats in order to digest them. They contain no fats or cholesterol and are very low in carbohydrates while being rich in fiber. As a result, eating them will reduce your weight in time. Some scientists even include mushrooms on the very short list of foods that can be consumed as often as possible, without any negative side effects. They have a healthier composition than most food and vegetables.

In one scientific study, test subjects were given one cup of honey mushrooms to eat every day, instead of red meat. The results showed that the people who ate mushrooms lost weight quickly and had other benefits as well. Not only their waistline was reduced, but they were able to stay at a lower weight in time. Most fast diets have immediate results but people who follow them tend to quickly regain their initial weight.

Culinary uses

The honey mushroom has a firm flesh with a meaty texture, which makes it a popular cooking ingredient all around the world. It is rarely prepared alone; usually it is combined with other products and can be included in many dishes. The honey mushroom can be cooked for a long time while maintaining its shape, due to the strong texture. Parboiling the caps for 5 minutes then discarding the water is an easy way to remove the slight bitter aftertaste that some people dislike.

Honey mushroom can also be dried and reconstituted for later use in recipes such as mushroom loaves, soups or stews. Another popular way to preserve young caps for later use is as pickles, mixing the water with a combination of spices.

The name of honey mushrooms can be sometimes misleading because they do have a low level of bitterness. Parboiling them for a few minutes prior to cooking can quickly remove it, as well as reduce the risk of any digestive issues.

For best results, use a pot full of boiling water. As soon as the water is boiling, add the mushrooms for no more than one or two minutes. Remove them from the water and soak the mushrooms in cold water, in order to prevent them from becoming mushy and to stop the cooking process.

This procedure eliminates the bitter taste and also some of the compounds that can irritate the stomach. Wipe them off and then you can slice the mushrooms in pieces and use them in your dishes. The stems are sometimes discarded because they have a tougher texture.

Honey mushrooms are great in many recipes but work best in soups, pastas and stuffed meals. They are a great addition to traditional French onion soup, since they balance its salty taste with some sweet and earthy tones. Eating honey mushrooms alone, as a sauté, is also possible.

Raw honey mushrooms are edible but you should always cook them in order to avoid the risk of diseases. If you consume them for the first time, start with a small amount.

Habitat and cultivation

Honey mushrooms only grow on wood. The most common location where you can find them is at the base of oak trees. Some species kill the tree they feed on, acting as parasites. Other can be classified as saprotrophs because they consume dead wood. The presence of honey mushrooms is not a good sign for nearby trees.

In rare cases, honey mushrooms are found individually. You should avoid them in such situations, because they are difficult to identify and can be confused with poisonous mushrooms. Just harvest the ones that grow in dense clusters.

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