The king trumpet mushroom is widely recognized as the most delicious of all oyster fungi. Its unusual size, characteristic funnel look, and numerous health benefits make it a common target among mycology enthusiasts worldwide.
Here, you’ll find all the details you need to know about king oysters, including their history, health benefits, and appearance. Plus, we’ll give you some tips on harvesting and cooking them.
Pleurotus eryngii (P. eryngii), also known as the king trumpet mushroom, is an edible fungus found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Its delicious taste and forgiving growth conditions have made it one of the most popular mushroom choices in the world. It has many other nicknames, including:
King trumpet mushrooms form part of the Pleurotus genus—a series of species that are often called “oysters” due to their lack of stipe (stem). Like most Pleurotus species, P. eryngii is usually found on hardwood trees such as oaks and maples. Yet, specialists believe it’s most often found growing near dying Eryngium campestre (a thistle species) (1).
Most oyster mushroom family species are considered functional fungi due to their health benefits and unique nutritional values. P. eryngii is no exception, as several studies have shown it could help manage high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity, among other conditions (2) (3).
P. eryngii is the largest Pleurotus species, with a 3-12 cm (1.1-4.7 in) convex cap that flattens out as the mushroom ages. Once it reaches maturity, the cap margins roll inwards giving it that characteristic funnel look.
Its white stem is more significant than other Pleurotus species, measuring 3-10 cm (1.1-3.9 in). The gills are thin and distant from each other. In the wild, king trumpet mushrooms grow individually or in small groups of a handful of specimens (1).
There are five distinct varieties of the king trumpet mushroom. The first one is the traditional P. eryngii, sometimes referred to as P. eryngii var. eryngii. The other four are:
It’s not clear how varieties differ from each other. Research suggests that it may have to do with where each variety grows. For example, P. eryngii var. nebrodensis is closely associated with Sicily, in Southern Italy while the traditional P. eryngii is linked to France (4).
Still, no evidence supports that the different varieties have distinctive appearances, nutritional values, or health benefits.
While those are the only varieties of P. eryngii, amateur mycologists may mistakenly use this term to refer to other Pleurotus species. These are all grouped under a single genus—a biology classification that groups similar species together.
The most famous oyster mushroom is probably P. ostreatus, often called the “prototypic” oyster mushroom. Other famous species include:
These species all have different flavors, nutritional values, and health benefits. This makes oyster mushrooms a wonderful genus to explore, giving you dozens of options depending on your preferences and tastes. Who needs a dating app when you can find so many different oyster mushrooms to love?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any clear records documenting the taxonomical history of king trumpet mushrooms. However, the earliest mentions of this species that we know of date back to the late 1890s.
But king trumpet mushrooms may go even further back than that. Specialists note that this species was first described by renowned Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in 1815. It was later revised by another famous mycologist, Elias Fries—but we couldn’t find any exact dates.
As for traditional usage of P. eryngii, a comprehensive review released in 2000 indicates that natives widely used king oyster mushrooms in Ancient Mexico. In fact, all Pleurotus species were so common that Mexicans have over 100 different nicknames for this genus. It was a common medicine for ailments such as sexual dysfunction and constipation.
While the paper briefly mentions other countries, it’s unclear if it refers to king trumpet mushrooms or other oyster fungi. However, we can assume that other cultures also used king trumpet mushrooms (5).
For example, the Ancient Egyptians considered mushrooms an absolute delicacy, reserved only for the highest of nobles. P. eryngii grows all over Northern Africa—so it’s not crazy to think that pharaohs consumed them occasionally (6).
As for the modern history of oyster mushrooms, sources point out that they became widespread during World War I. At the time, researchers discovered highly efficient cultivation techniques that allowed king trumpet mushrooms and similar species to become a staple of international cuisine (7).
King trumpet mushrooms are “functional fungi”—mushroom species with significant health benefits. This makes them an excellent addition to almost any diet, even more so when considering their fantastic nutritional values.
A 2016 study analyzed the chemical components of different fruitbodies of P. eryngii. Researchers found that these mushrooms are mostly composed of crude protein and fiber, with little to no presence of fat. Furthermore, they contain several micronutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and calcium (8).
As for potential health benefits, many studies suggest that P. eryngii may have significant cholesterol-lowering, antidiabetic, and antiobesity properties. However, it’s important to remember that research is still preliminary, so check with a doctor before using P. eryngii to treat any condition.
One of the most important studies involving king trumpet mushrooms examined their effect on metabolically unhealthy patients. After three months of eating P. eryngii daily, participants could lower their blood cholesterol and body fat levels. Plus, they were healthier overall, demonstrating that the mushroom has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties (3).
Another 2011 study further confirms the cholesterol-lowering potential of king trumpet mushrooms. The authors even recommend further studying this species to prevent atherosclerosis—a condition where the arteries get clogged by plaques (2).
More recent research proposes that king oysters may help prevent and treat neurological disorders. Experts theorize that this may be due to its interaction with specific genes that could prevent neurodegenerative processes (9).
King trumpet mushrooms are native to Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia. They are particularly widespread in the Mediterranean regions of Europe, including Italy and Southern France. Yet, their lax growing requirements allow for cultivation all over the world (1).
In nature, P. eryngii grows on the buried roots of hardwoods and near Apiaceae trees. The traditional variety (P. eryngii var. eryngii) prefers growing as a parasite to Eryngium campestre—a thistle plant common in Central and Southern Europe. Yet, P. eryngii can grow on several other substrates, including wheat straw, sawdust, and cut logs (10) (1).
The prevalence of P. eryngii and its many nutritional and health benefits make this species a popular target among amateur harvesters. However, picking mushrooms shouldn’t be taken lightly—harvesting resources without proper care can significantly impact the environment.
Ethical wildcrafting refers to harvesting natural resources following a few simple guidelines to keep the environment safe. While many use wildcraft as a synonym for foraging, the two have slightly different meanings. In essence, wildcrafting refers to harvesting for medicinal purposes.
If you’re new to wildcrafting, you should take some time to learn the basic concepts of ethical harvesting. This will prevent unnecessary environmental damage while also keeping your local P. eryngii populations thriving. Here are some of the key concepts:
If you don’t know where to start, we recommend you look up local harvesting groups in your area. More experienced wildcrafters will be able to teach you these concepts firsthand while also showing you some pro tips for finding your desired species.
Luckily, there aren’t any poisonous mushrooms that are too similar to P. eryngii. However, a few species may resemble it under the right conditions. The most dangerous one is probably Inosperma erubescens—a deadly species that can sometimes grow a cap almost identical to P. eryngii’s.
As such, it’s crucial to only wildcraft P. eryngii under the close supervision of a professional. If you want to harvest it on your own, do not eat any specimens unless you’re absolutely positive that they are P. eryngii.
There isn’t a specific way to cook king oyster mushrooms, so you can add them to any number of dishes that call for mushrooms. King trumpet mushrooms make the perfect meat substitute thanks to their meaty texture (sometimes likened to abalone) and umami flavor.
From vegan scallops and meatballs to delicious soups and stir-fries, the options are truly limitless. Even the most inexperienced home cooks can enjoy these fungi, as the internet is filled to the brim with dozens of simple king oyster mushroom recipes.
For instance, pan-fried king oysters can be the perfect side dish for you. Throw some unsalted butter, garlic cloves, and olive oil in a pan, cook with mushrooms on high heat, top with a little black pepper and salt to taste, and it’s done.
You can use pan-fried king trumpets to accompany any dish from Korean and Chinese to Italian and Japanese cuisine—but experts recommend combining them with Mediterranean dishes. Sauteeing with soy sauce is also a great way to give it an Asian touch.
Another excellent idea is combining king trumpets with other types of mushrooms, such as hen-of-the-wood (maitake) or shiitake mushrooms. The good news is that you can find king oysters in many grocery stores, so don’t be afraid to pick some up and experiment.
The king trumpet is quite possibly the most delicious type of oyster mushroom. Native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, this fungus has several health benefits and a unique nutritional balance. And the best part? It’s as easy to implement into your diet as any other mushroom.
If you want to find out about other types of mushrooms, keep up on shroomer. Here, you’ll find all the details you need about psychedelic and functional fungi from all over the world, along with the latest news on medicinal research on edible mushrooms.