The Real Reason Oyster Mushrooms Can Be So Expensive

If you plan to add a few savory mushrooms to tonight's cream sauce, be warned, you may spend up to $18 per pound for that edible fungi (via Whole Earth Harvest). Perhaps it's worth the hefty price tag, since fresh oyster mushrooms are sweet, satiny, and add a delightful earthiness to your dining experience.

There's no doubt we're in the middle of a gourmet mushroom boom as unique wild mushrooms are cropping up at grocery stores and farmer's markets nationwide. In fact, almost ten million pounds of oyster and shiitake mushrooms were sold in the U.S. last year (via Profitable Plants Digest). Clearly, we're willing to fork over extra cash for the luxury, despite the fact that oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest to grow, thriving in a diverse range of waste products, from straw and sawdust, to cardboard and coffee grounds.

Oyster mushrooms get their name from their oyster-shaped cap, and light grey, or greyish-tan color (via GroCycle). Cooked oyster mushrooms have a smooth oyster-like texture and mild, earthy flavor. Although barely detectable when incorporated into a dish, some folks detect hints of seafood and anise.

At just 28 calories per cup, oyster mushrooms are virtually fat-free, and an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, including niacin (21 percent of your recommended daily intake), riboflavin (18 percent), pantothenic acid (11 percent), and 10 percent of your RDA for phosphorus, potassium, and copper (via Verywell Fit).

You might be paying for mushrooms grown in someone's basement

More expensive than white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms are globally worshipped for their delicate texture and pleasant, savory flavor (via The Spruce Eats). The caps are broad, thin, and fan-shaped, with gills lining the underside. Some caps are uniquely frilly around the edges, adding a dash of extravagance to any dish.

Oyster mushrooms can often be found in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cooking, and meaty oyster mushrooms are native to the forest habitats of Siberian Asia, Northern Europe, and the United States (via Ventured). That sounds exotic, but oyster mushrooms are easy to grow and are being cultivated by enterprising mushroom farmers in urban warehouses, isolated basements, caves, and trees on forested land.

If oyster mushrooms are so easy to grow, why are they so pricey? Turns out, mushroom cultivation (AKA fungiculture) is actually pretty difficult. Mushrooms aren't plants, so they can be more difficult to predict. According to Epicurious, mushrooms require food to thrive, a growth substrate that feeds the fungus and encourages it to flourish. They also require high humidity and their substrate might need to be sterilized, which can get expensive (via Mushroom Company).

The Spruce Eats adds that it's challenging to grow oyster mushrooms in an organized fashion, making their success somewhat unpredictable. The good news is, as more and more folks farm and harvest oyster mushrooms, prices should come down.