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What is Beefsteak Fungus?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Beefsteak fungus, also called Fistulina hepatica is a distinctive edible fungus which can be found in the forests of Europe and the United States. In some parts of Europe, beefsteak fungus is available for sale in markets and restaurants. This highly unusual mushroom resembles meat in texture and color, and is sometimes used by vegetarians as a meat course. It is also relatively easy to identify, although wild mushrooms should never be collected without experienced supervision.

The beefsteak fungus can grow to a width of 12 inches (30 centimeters) on the trunks of hardwood trees such as oak. In color, it is red to brown on top with a pale white underside, with distinctive pores that can be seen with a hand lens. In some parts of the world, beefsteak fungus can be found growing on lawns or at the base of trees in clustered groups. The shape of the fungus is vaguely fanlike, although it can also resemble a large tongue.

The best time of year to find the fungus is in the late fall, when rain has encouraged the mushrooms to start sprouting. Older mushrooms tend to have a more woody texture and flavor, so you should aim to collect moderately sized specimens with an even color and no slimy or soft spots. Insects favor the pores of beefsteak fungus, and it can be soaked in salt water before use if this is a concern.

When cut, the beefsteak fungus exudes a red fluid which resembles blood. The soft streaky flesh reminds many consumers of liver or other rich meats, and it has a slightly tannic, slightly sour flavor. Beefsteak fungus can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of preparations, and takes well to marination. In Europe, the flavor is very popular and sought after, although some people dislike the sour flavor, which can be intense if the mushroom is not prepared with care.

Soaking beefsteak fungus in water will help to eliminate the tannic and sour flavors, which can be further mitigated if the mushroom is boiled. One of the most common preparations for beefsteak fungus is thin raw slices to dress salads. The slices will add color and texture, as well as a slightly unusual flavor. Beefsteak fungus can also be sauteed or grilled, or coated in a herb crust and fried. Like other mushrooms, beefsteak fungus will keep best in a paper bag under refrigeration.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By aLFredo — On Sep 29, 2011

Beefsteak fungus sounds interesting. I don't know if I would like the sour taste, so I would make sure to soak it in water for a considerable amount of time if I don't like the sour taste.

This seems like a good choice for vegetarians, because mushrooms are very filling and are high in nutrients.

From the sound of things, I would want to cut my beefsteak fungus into small pieces so the taste wouldn't be too overwhelming or powerful.

The slimy, soft, old beefsteak fungus sounds pretty disgusting. I think the first time I try it I would want to have it served to me in a gourmet restaurant, where an experienced chef would know what to do with it and what foods would taste the best with it.

By ceilingcat — On Sep 29, 2011

I live in the United States, and I know for a fact that I have never seen beefsteak fungus in a store before. Which is a shame, because I have a few friends who are vegetarians that would probably love this.

In fact, I would probably like this. I'm not a vegetarian, but I am a big fan of mushrooms in general. This does sound like it would be great in salads, like the article said.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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