Cauliflower Mushroom

Sparassis species


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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