Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lion's Mane, a Memorable, Medicinal Mushroom

by Laura Kahles

When people ask us what the medicinal benefits of Lion’s Mane (aka Monkey Head, Pom Pom, Hericium erinaceus) are, we typically respond, “It helps improve memory function and promotes nerve regeneration.” While true, there is more to be said about this charming character. The Chinese more commonly use this mushroom to aid in digestion and alleviate gastric ulcers. It is also filled with beneficial polysaccharides and polypeptides. These big words simply translate into “medicine” that can boost the immune system and help with the fight against certain cancers including some stomach, esophagus, and skin varieties.  Who knew that such an adorable fungus could secretly be a superhero.   

What's not to love about this photo?

I have consumed mushrooms in many forms. The most common is straight consumption of both cooked and raw mushrooms (remember bacteria and parasites often take joy rides on mushroom fruiting bodies, so eat raw mushrooms at your own risk). Working at a mushroom farm certainly gives me ample opportunity to eat a wide variety of these tasty treasures and Lion’s Mane is no different. Although I long for the rich buttery flavor of the wild Hericium, I have more access the sawdust block variety, which is also flavorful and enjoyable IF picked early. Be sure to cook Lion’s Mane on a low simmer or add it to a hearty soup or stew. This full bodied mushroom won’t leave you hungry.

The Lion's Mane mushroom. This one is pink in color due to high humidity conditions in the fruiting room.

I have also had my fair share of mushroom teas, but I find they are either to flavorless or too mushroomy (yep… I just said that). If I decide to sit down to a cup of my favorite mushrooms in a drink form I like to mix them with a few of my favorite herbal buddies. Any of the various mints, chamomile, or rooibos. A squeeze of lemon or a drop of wild orange essential oil never hurts. To each their own when it comes to jazzing up fungus water! I do try to keep it healthy and natural, we are after all trying to use it as a medicine. Honey is my sweetener of choice. Make sure mushroom teas are made using a relaxing simmer, as opposed to a violent boil, which can cause damage to the valuable medicinal components.
If you are interested in getting the full benefits and flavor of your mushroom, a real shock to the palate, try juicing them! The F&FP staff did this with Lion’s Mane, and it was... well... an experience I personally will never forget. Mary Ellen did the juicing. The mushrooms (25% of the weight) along with carrots, apples and kale were put into a juicer and voila! She served them to us in cute little cups (she tricked us is what she did), and cheers, we guzzled them down. While not the most enjoyable beverage, I can rest easy knowing that the medicine lurking within the mushrooms was served to me in full effect, no damage from the heat involved with some of the other processes.
A wonderful blend of juices, including Lion's Mane

My favorite way to consume medicinal mushrooms is in a concentrated tincture form. I prefer this because it doesn’t take much effort to add it to my everyday food or beverages, and I don’t usually notice it as an ingredient. Tincturing is a straightforward process. Basically mushrooms are suspended in alcohol where they sit for several weeks. Once that process is complete the alcohol is drained and the mushrooms are reused for a 6-8 minute low simmer in water. After straining out the mushrooms the water and alcohol are combined to create an almighty elixir. For more details on this process visit my previous post, Reishi Tincture: A Cure All.  

I would love to see the Lion’s Mane continue to rise in popularity, so if you haven’t tried it out yet please consider! The health benefits alone sure have me convinced. Hold up your tiny glasses of juiced Lion’s Mane and let’s cheer to health!

Check out the bonus Lion's Mane recipe below:

Louisiana Style Vegetarian Gumbo with Lion's Mane, Okra and Zucchini
by Mary Ellen Kozak

After years of cooking Lion's Mane, I have a short list of ways to capitalize on this mushroom's list of of culinary attributes. Lion's Mane is surely one of the more unusual of the cultivated mushrooms. It has a fairly distinct and strong flavor, chewy yet soft texture, and it seems unlikely that something with a hairy texture could be so invincible in the cooking pot. Lion's Mane prepared in this medium-slow cook method is mild flavored and pliable with a slight chew, feeling solid, like a bite of shrimp. Its soft texture is downright succulent in contrast to the soft and slippery okra. This is my first go at a gumbo, which I'm learning has many styles and versions. This one is vegetarian-lite, can be loaded with healthy Lion's Mane which makes for a fabulous lunch or a light weeknight supper and you'll feel remarkable healthy after eating it.

Louisiana Style Vegetarian Gumbo


1 T oil

1  onion, diced
1 c sliced bell peppers
3 large stalks of celery, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
6 c vegetable (or chicken) broth
14 oz can whole or diced tomatoes (or pint jar of your own)
1 1/2 c  okra, (if using frozen okra, thaw slightly for easy slicing)
2 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 lb (about 3 c)  Lion's Mane, torn into bite size pieces
1 tsp file' powder (ground sassafras leaves, or sub 1/2 tsp thyme and 1/2 tsp marjoram ... but try to find the file powder!)
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of hot sauce
A few grinds of black pepperOptional: 2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 c cold water (for a thicker gumbo)
Hot cooked rice


In a soup pot, saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms over a low-moderate heat. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook a few more minutes. Add the seasonings, tomato and zucchini and partially cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes. If you prefer a thicker stew, add the arrowroot or cornstarch and return the stew to a moderate heat for a few minutes. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve over a fluffy cooked rice.

Gumbo recipe adapted from www.thespruce.com


  1. How easy is it to grow your own Lion's Mane?

    1. If you plan to grow them indoors using one of our Table Top Farms it is quite easy. These kits require light misting each day and produce mushrooms in 2-3 weeks. Growing at logs takes a little more physical work, but is still considered to be easy, especially if using the totem method.

  2. Team F&FP has already done the hard parts for us!

    I place these fully-colonized table-top farms in a shotgun terrarium and have no difficulty getting them to fruit. In the summer I leave the terrarium outside on my porch where it gets 50/50 sun and shade and it fruits throughout the season with just periodic misting and fresh air exchange (FAE). In the winter they should be indoors.

    F&FP Team,
    how will these hold up to freezing temps during shipping? I am in southern Wisconsin so it shouldn't take too long to transport, but I am thinking about taking advantage of your Winter Special right now...

    1. We are shipping these blocks out with no issue right now. We keep an eye on the temperature, but it is rarely too cold to ship. If a block freezes short term it usually has no problem producing mushrooms.

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