Cauliflower fungus – identification, habitat, distribution

Sparassis crispa

  • Edibility   4 – use when still firm, clean thoroughly
  • Identification 5 – unmistakable
  • Distribution    2 – uncommon, pick responsibly when mature
  • Season: September-November
  • Habitat: At base of Sitka Spruce, Scots Pine

This is one of the most exciting fungi to stumble upon, nestling at the base of pine trees like a cloud of coral. Although uncommon, they tend to recur in established locations, though not necessarily in consecutive years. Firm young specimens are delicious, if laborious to clean, with a firm texture and fungal, nutty flavour. They can grow to enormous sizes (1m across), but football size is more normal. As the branches divide from a central stem, it is possible to harvest it in portion-size pieces, leaving the rest still live and growing.

It is very versatile, good for all mushroom dishes, though deep fried in tempura batter can be particular special.

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