The English language is so much fun. It excels at enticing an image with the application of a single unadorned word. Then it has to tickle your funny bone with adjectives and adverbs of varying appropriateness. Who, exactly, gets to name things? What a fun job. Who knew you could grow up to be a professional namer? Too late at this point, but I bet I could have been a world-class namer.
We have talked here in the past of mushrooms and been amazed as much by their diversity as their apparent whimsy. Today we’re concerned with the Lion’s Mane mushroom. Its association with savage tresses or the sweeping locks of conductors is easy to understand. Actually, this beautiful fungus has acquired a goodly number of aliases including: Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Tooth, Pom Pom, Sheep’s Head, Bearded Hedgehog, Monkey’s Head and Yamabushitake. It is a serious comfort to know that there are so many fanciful people sharing the planet.
Not atypically, the Chinese have used this and other mushrooms for medicinal purposes for eons. This mushroom is one they dubbed “brain tonic” as they believed that it improved memory. It turns out that they were on to something. Recent Western and Asian research studies have cited this mushroom as having nerve-regenerative properties which has been supported by testing in the treatment of mild cognitive decline, anxiety and depression. This field of research in the West was kickstarted by Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and it has produced interesting results among which are the development of antibacterial agents, antifungals, immuno-suppressants and the treatment of malaria and diabetes.
It will not surprise you that it took the French and the Italians to bring the mushroom to the table. The French are reputed to be the first to cultivate varying funguses. The Italians are credited with first teaching pigs and dogs to sniff out prize truffle fungus. There are reasons that both those cultures produced world-class cuisines.
This week’s recipe is an ultra-simple one, Sautéed Lion’s Mane. It almost doesn’t require instructions, though we will provide them. Don’t forget to check out the website for many more mushroom recipes such as Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches with Aioli, Oyster Mushroom, Squash and Chestnut Stew and Shrimp with Mushrooms and Ramps in Coconut Milk.