The Lions Mane mushroom, scientific name Hericium Erinaceus, is also known as Sheeps Head, Pom Pom Blanc, and Yamibushiitake. It is a unique in many ways, starting with its unique shape and structure. Instead of gills, this mushroom body has little teeth that the spores are released from. These teeth are what give this funny looking mushroom a seafood like texture when cooked, mimicking the mouth feel of crab or scallops.
It is native to North America, favoring Beech trees and fruiting in the fall. A very rare and exciting find in the wild, it is not the most commonly cultivated gourmet mushroom. A bit more sensitive than other species, it does not like to travel long distances and thus is not often found fresh far from the farm that raises it. Which is why we are so glad we can offer it here in Western Massachusetts! Like many of the gourmet mushrooms it thrives on sawdust (another saprophyte), and we supplement with organic grains.
With such a unique texture this mushroom can transform and elevate many dishes. Used as a compliment with other seafood, for instance instead of scallops in a Scampi, or as a protein replacement in a not quite crab cake, the options are endless. Keep it simple by sauteing it up with some butter and salt, or make some vegetarian seafood treats, you will be amazed and comforted by the appeal of Lions Mane.
Beyond being a culinary delight, this mushroom is believed to have adaptogenic properties with the human body. Used for centuries in eastern medicine to promote a healthy gut, mind and body, it is known to possess unique polysaccharides and beta glucans which can have a positive effect on aspects of the immune system. The compounds hericenone and erinacine are unique to the lions mane mushroom, and have been show to have a direct link with the promotion of Nerve Growth Factor (Source). There is ongoing research into the uses of this mushroom and its effects on the body, so keep up to date on developments in our understanding of this mushroom.