Maitake mushrooms turning unpleasantly bitter?
January 9, 2013 6:27 AM   Subscribe

I made a pilaf with young hen-of-the-woods/maitake mushrooms on Monday night. It was delicious. This morning I nuked some leftovers for breakfast (it's been refrigerated for the past 36 hrs), and the mushroom pieces are now shockingly bitter. What happened?

I don't mean bitter like coffee or beer or walnuts; I mean almost inedibly bitter, like bitter melon or orange oil. I don't mind bitter things (I eat bitter melon), but the change is freaking me out a bit. WTH happened? What are these alkaloids? Where did they come from? And of course... can I still eat it*?

* Assume for sake of argument that I do not want to be tripping balls at work.
posted by Westringia F. to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Uh, I don't know about the rest of it, but as to 'can I still eat it'? I wouldn't.

In their raw/wild state, if mushrooms taste bitter it usually means they're poisonous. Cooking probably changes the game a bit, but still...not worth it.
posted by Salamander at 6:51 AM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: One of the cardinal rules of harvesting and eating wild mushrooms: When in doubt, throw it out.
posted by jammy at 7:09 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The advice not to eat it probably still stands, but I should clarify: these were bought from a cultivator (an inspected one who sells at the regional farmer's markets), not collected from the wild.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:40 AM on January 9, 2013

01) I would not eat the rest of this dish

02) Next time you are in the market, ask the cultivator about it? (If you don't get a conclusive answer here, I mean. or even if you do!)
posted by elizardbits at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have heard that some mushrooms get incredibly bitter when they are heated to a very high temperature too fast. In this case, I would suspect that the microwave is the culprit. Maitake, in particular, is known to become bitter (but not poisonous) as it gets older. Perhaps you hyper-aged the mushrooms by nuking them?

Do you still have some soup left that hasn't been nuked? If you do, I would try some cold and see if the bitterness is still there. If it isn't bitter, then the next time you cook it, try re-boiling it instead of microwaving it.
posted by nikkorizz at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Interesting, nikkorizz! Do you have a reference for that by any chance?

I have some non-nuked leftovers, so in principle I can try. I had no adverse reaction this morning other than "yuk," and since these weren't wild-picked I'm inclined to trust their safety, but before experimenting on myself I think I'd like to find more details.....
posted by Westringia F. at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2013

N'thing the nuking. Here's a Chowhound thread on the phenomena of overheated mushrooms becoming bitter.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:32 PM on January 9, 2013

In their raw/wild state, if mushrooms taste bitter it usually means they're poisonous.

Not true, especially not the converse. I.e. if a mushroom doesn't taste bitter, that definitely does NOT mean that it is not poisonous. If a mushroom tastes bitter, edibility tends to be unknown, because few eat bitter-tasting mushrooms.
posted by telstar at 12:31 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for much mushroom knowledge! In the end I experimented on myself and reheated the rest gently; after gentle reheating it was fine, so I suspect it was indeed the nuking.

(I say "suspect" because even though I'd intended to set some aside for the purpose of confirming/reproducing the effect, I got hungry and ate my sample. This is why I could never be an experimentalist in real life.)
posted by Westringia F. at 1:31 PM on March 27, 2013

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