Behold the resinous polypore, inspiring chefs around the world with it’s seductive, appealing name! Probably not. Either way, this is an interesting mushroom you’ve probably seen but never thought about eating.
Ischnoderma resinosum a.k.a. the resinous polypore, grows on hardwoods and conifers (I have only seen it on hardwoods in Minnesota). If you’ve seen it, you’ve probably passed it by thinking that it looks too hard to even be edible, and you would be correct, if it’s mature, and has been growing for a while.
When to Harvest
Just like vegetables and animals, the age of mushrooms has a lot to do with how good they will taste. An old lamb will have a much stronger flavor from a young one, and a cauliflower left to bolt and flower will be much more bitter than one that’s younger. Our resinous polypore here is the same. Older resinous polypores will be tough, like a wood plank, and pretty much impossible to cook with-I used to think they were a novelty, like Ganoderma applenatum/artist’s conch, a mushroom that’s only use is pretty much as tinder, or for drawing pictures on.
So one day I was out hiking and I spotted some very young Ischnoderma. I wasn’t having much luck hunting other summer mushrooms, and I thought I would go check them out, for the lack of anything else growing nearby. I remember touching some of the young mushrooms just budding from the tree and thinking to myself: “those feel sooo tender”. My mouth started watering; I just knew I could eat them. If I know one thing about cooking with polypores, and mushrooms in general too, it’s that the younger the mushroom, the more delicious it will be. Polypores in general are more generally safe too, from my experience.
I took the ischnoderma home and got experimenting. After cleaning with a quick rinse, I made sure to trim them just like I would a chicken of the woods-using only the tender young margins, the closer it gets to the tree the more tough it will get.
In the kitchen the first thing I tried was the basic saute, I heated some grapeseed oil and threw them in the pan, added some salt after they started to brown, and finished with a knob of butter. They were ok, slightly chewy, and just ok.
The second way I cooked them was stewing with some salt and herbs to release their juice, then reducing the juice, allowing the mushrooms to gradually caramelize in their own liquid. After one taste of the second method, I was sold. Basically the ischnoderma, like most mushrooms, has a lot of water weight. when that water is released and then concentrated, their flavor blooms and comes alive. The flavor is much richer than I expected, there’s a deep richness to them, a great umami quality.
Taking into account their tasty liquid, I modified my older mushroom conserve recipe to suit them. The preserved mushrooms are great reheated gently and added to rice, pasta, or on top of a steak, it’s one of the most basic and versatile recipes I know. You don’t have to add the vinegar, to the recipe, but the mushrooms will go bad in a couple days if you don’t. Adjust the seasonings and make it your own, but the special “herb” I used in this particular batch was wonderful, try it sometime.
All of that being said, the name “resinous polypore” is not doing it for me. I have yet to come across another common name for this mushroom, so I think we should come up with one. Considering how soft and velvety they were in their young state, “velvet polypore” sounded nice to me. Anyone else have some ideas?
Ischnoderma Mushroom Conserve
This recipe is for 5lbs of fresh mushrooms, a restaurant batch which makes a lot of conserve. Feel free to scale it down.
- 3 lbs small, young ischnoderma resinosum, tender ends only, cleaned and rinsed if needed.
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup flavorless oil for sauteeing, such as grapeseed or canola
- 1/4 cup flavorful oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, virgin sunflower oil, or a tasty nut based oil, such as hazelnut
- Roughly 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 qts water or court bouillon
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, or white vinegar. (If you are making a recipe including a touch of sugar as for morels chickens, or chanterelles, you might use apple cider vinegar.)
- Large sprig of a hard herb, like thyme, or rosemary. (You could also finely chop some of either and add it too, which will give it a stronger flavor.)
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- Tiny pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
- In a wide pan with high sides, or even a soup pot, gently heat the oil and the sliced garlic until the garlic begins to turn golden.
- Add the mushrooms, salt and herbs, and allow the mushrooms to give up their juice and stop the garlic from getting too brown. Stir the mushrooms to coat them with the garlic, herbs and oil, and season them with a pinch of the salt.
- Continue mushrooms until most of their liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes, then remove and discard the herbs. Add the court bouillon or water.
- Add the vinegar and flavored oil of your choice. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes, then taste the liquid, and adjust with salt if needed.
- Finally, put the conserve into a container and refrigerate. If you will be keeping the conserve for more than a few weeks, make sure to put plastic wrap on top of the conserve to keep the mushrooms under the liquid, to ward off bacteria. Under the liquid though they will keep for a few months. You could also freeze the mushrooms in a container or freezer bag, with their liquid.