MycoBank Taxonomy: Fungi, Dikarya, Basidiomycota, Agaricomycotina, Agaricomycetes, Phallomycetidae, Gomphales, Gomphaceae, Gomphus
Now and again, a supportive fan of the 1001 Mushroom Project will offer up some of their mushrooms for me to eat and blog about. Because I want to go through the whole process myself (finding, identifying, preparing, and eating a new species), I almost always decline their generous donations, But when a mushroom hunter shared with me photos of these gorgeous lilac "chanterelles", Gomphus clavatus, and asked if I'd like them for eating – they'd collected them before but weren't a big fan, or eating any mushroom for that matter – how could I say no?
Gomphus clavatus looks like a chanterelle, given its well developed false gills, but is actually in a different taxonomic order, the Gomphales. Pseudocraterellus pseudoclavatus is a nearly identical (but apparently quite rare) lookalike that is a chanterelle, in the order Cantharellales. It's really a stunning case of convergent evolution considering how similar these mushrooms are despite their distant relatedness. The best way to distinguish the two species from each other is under the microscope. G. clavatus has roughened spores and clamp connections whereas P. pseudoclavatus has smooth spores and hyphae with simple septa. Another distinguishing factor is their ecology: G. clavatus is "supposed" to be associated with conifers and P. pseudoclavatus with hardwoods. For that reason, I initially suspected these mushroms were P. pseudoclavatus, but the microscopic features were a clear indication that they were actually G. clavatus. Maybe a conifer was present, or maybe our ecological designations are too strict. Finally, a spot test with KOH is also sufficient to distinguish the species, with G. clavatus reacting negative and P. pseudoclavatus turning "sordid bister" (brown) (Smith & Morse, 1947).
When it comes to eating pig ears, fresh mushrooms are key because larvae inhabitants can be a problem. After removing the buggy bits, I chopped the pig ears into chunks, sauteed them, and then tore them into smaller bits. The cooked mushrooms smelled strangely like pancakes and their texture was bizarrely meaty. Inspired by Forager Chef, I decided to make pig ear tacos. My rendition consisted of Japanese mayo, spicy collard greens, pulled pig ears, and scallions. To my surprise, given their distinct appearance, the pig ears tasted mild, maybe a little nutty, but with a bitter finish. For that reason, I rank this mushroom as "good" but not "great" or choice. However, for those of you who enjoy bitter flavor, this might be an all-star mushroom. Besides taste, their texture was fantastic. Pig ears have a real meaty firmness, almost a crunch, that is very satisfying. Gomphus clavatus is a unique, bold, and special mushroom whose culinary possibilites I am excited to continue exploring.
ACD0321, 22 August 2020; Lapeer Co., MI, USA; leg. Huafang Su, det. Huafang Su & Alden C. Dirks, GenBank –– (ITS rDNA), MICH ––.
Smith, A. H., & Morse, E. E. (1947). The genus Cantharellus in the western United States. Mycologia, 39(5), 497–534. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3755192
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