Cauliflower Mushroom

Sparassis species

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Western cauliflower (Sparassis crispa) and Eastern cauliflower (Sparassis spathulata or S. herbstii)

Poufs of feathery or flattened ruffles, these mushrooms hardly look like what one associates with a mushroom—or cauliflower, for that matter. Resembling pale coral or sea anemones, the “heads” are at once supple, slippery, and crisp. The aroma has a marine edge, but cucumber and cedar also figure in it. Dimensions vary from bath sponge to hassock, and this may account for their supposed variability: The 1- to 2-pounders I have cooked were tender—turning into “egg noodles,” in minutes—but I have read that some need long cooking.

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