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Bear's Head Mushrooms
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The Bear’s Head mushroom is white with soft spines drooping downward from a thick, branched fruiting body. Often growing from hardwood trees, the mushroom grows in branched clusters that look like fungal icicles hanging from the trunk of the tree. The tooth-like projections growing from the fungus can grow up to an inch and a half long or more. When sliced, the various branches are exposed (Alternately, Lion’s Mane mushrooms do not have a branched fruiting body). Its texture is meaty and tender with a sweet and fragrant seafood-like taste, similar to lobster or crab.
Bear’s Head mushrooms can be found in late summer through early fall; cultivated Bear’s Head mushrooms are available year-round.
Botanically known as Hericium americanum, the Bear’s Head mushroom is North America’s only Hericium species. Bear’s Head mushroom is also known as the Bear’s-head Tooth fungus, or Pom Pom mushroom. It can often be mistaken for one of its sibling species, the Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), which grows throughout Asia and in the United States. The difference between the two is very slight, primarily ecological and the presence of a branched fruiting body in the mature americanum species and the lack thereof in the erinaceus species. Bear’s Head mushrooms can be found in the wild and can also be cultivated.
All Hericium species contain erinacine, a compound that has been found to be a potent anti-convulsant and can protect neurons in instances of epilepsy, brain or spinal cord injury. Mushrooms are rich in vitamin D, and high in fiber and protein.
Bear’s Head mushrooms are best broken up or cut into chunks and pan fried in a little oil and butter until browned. The flavor and texture compliments soups and pasta dishes. Bear’s Head mushrooms do not keep long and can become bitter if kept for more than a few days.
Dried and powdered Bear’s Head mushroom was used by native tribes to stop bleeding wounds and cuts. In Asia, the mushroom is soaked in hot water to make a sports drink called Houtou, which was believed to be responsible for several victories during the Eleventh Asia Sports Festival in 1990.
Bear’s Head mushrooms grow east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, found on both live and dead hardwood trees, such as birch and oak. Bear’s Head mushrooms were previously classified as Hericium coralloides, which has more recently been assigned to another species of toothed fungus.
Recipes that include Bear's Head Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.