Mushroom Toasts with Artomyces pyxidatus
If you're out and about in the woods on the East Coast of the United States or in the Czech Republic and neighboring European states in the spring, chances are you've come across a curious mushroom that grows out of moss-covered hardwood logs and looks like a white coral under the sea. This mushroom is Artomyces pyxidatus, or as it is commonly known, the crown-tipped coral. Keep reading to learn more about it and get the recipe for mushroom toasts with this spring edible mushroom.
Growing in the spring, summer, and fall, the edible crown-tipped coral fungus is a widely distributed mushroom on the East Coast of the United States, but it's apparently rare on the West Coast. I have found this mushroom many times in Pennsylvania, but never in the Czech Republic, though I know it does grow abundantly there as well.
This mushroom is part of coral fungi, which groups together all fungi that create upright branches as their fruiting bodies. This group is based solely in this single morphological characteristic, because it contains many different genera that are completely unrelated in terms of micromorphological, ecological, and DNA characteristics. Artomyces pyxidatus is one of the few coral fungi that fruit on wood, which makes it fairly easy to identify. Most coral fungi are saprotrophic, growing on decaying organic matter such as woodland leaf litter or mossy grassland.
Artomyces pyxidatus is also known by its former scientific name Clavicorona pyxidata, which is a pretty unfortunate name now, given the worldwide coronavirus pandemic we're currently facing. But the name makes sense: the whitish to pale yellowish branches of this mushroom end in tiny crowns (coronas!), creating a tiny cup-like depression surrounded by 3-6 points. These points can get brownish as the mushroom matures. Each mushroom has multiple crowned branches that arise from a single stalk-like base from a decaying log of hardwood trees. The overall structure, which is 4-13 cm high and 2-10 cm wide, is referenced by the epithet pyxidatus, which means "box-like."
Artomyces pyxidatus growing on a decaying log.
A Bit of Taxonomic History
Over 220 years ago, in 1794, (when mycology was barely in its humble beginnings and the kingdom of fungi didn't even exist yet), the Dutch mycologist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon named this mushroom Clavicorona pyxidata. Back then, the classification of fungi was mostly based on morphological characteristics, so in 1981, Swiss mycologist Walter Jülich suggested a new genus Artomyces, because the morphological differences were too significant from other Clavicorona species.
- Grows on wood (although that wood can sometimes be buried)
- Has white to yellowish delicate branches that end in tiny crowns created by 3-6 tiny tips
- Multiple branches grow from a single base
Taste & Edibility
Although some sources say this mushroom is edible raw, I always sauté it to be safe. If you taste a bit of it raw (don't swallow it), it's pretty mild at first, but then it develops a peppery flavor. Some sources say this peppery taste can remain even after you cook it, but I've never had that happen. While you may find large quantities of this mushroom, Tom Volk, a mushroom expert based at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, warns about overindulging: "Some books report Clavicorona as having a "cathartic" effect, causing diarrhea and mild vomiting in some sensitive people." This is why you always want to start with small quantities with eating new mushrooms for the first few times. The mushroom is fragile and there's not much too it once you cook it, which is why it's always good to pair it with other mushrooms as a delightful addition.
Mushroom Toasts with Artomyces pyxidatus
Not only do I like photographing and learning about mushrooms (find out how I got into mushrooms and photography), I really like eating them as well! So here's my very first mushroom recipe.
Please be extremely careful cooking and eating foraged mushrooms. Never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its ID. The best way to learn how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms in your area is to join a local mushroom club or go with a trusted mushroom identifier or a mycologist. Then, even if you are 100% sure of its ID and know it's an edible mushroom, always try small quantities of a new mushroom first before eating a large batch to make sure it sits with you well.
- Artomyces pyxidatus, aka crown-tipped coral fungus (foraged)
- 8-10 medium-sized baby bella mushrooms (store-bought)
- 4-6 medium-sized shiitake (store-bought)
- 2 slices homemade rye bread
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp caraway seed
- salt and peper
- grated parmesan
- wild chives (foraged)
Start by toasting the rye bread. I've gotten rid of my toaster, so I use a skillet. If you're in a hurry or feeling lazy, use the toaster, but believe me that toasting bread in a skillet is much better! Toast on both sides, rub the garlic clove onto bread, and then spread some butter all over it.
Clean the mushrooms. Soak the crown-tipped coral fungus in water to get rid of dirt and potentially other things they might be hiding. I found a slug once! Then dry them off.
Using a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe off the dirt from baby bella and shiitake mushrooms. Some people don't like using the stems of the mushrooms (the shiitake are definitely a bit tough), but I see that as a giant waste, so wipe the dirt off of those too or cut off the ends. Don't wash the mushrooms under running water—they will soak it up and then won't brown properly.
Heat up 1tbsp butter in a skillet. Cut up the baby bella and shiitake mushrooms and add them to the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and 1/2 tsp of caraway seed. Cook, and wait 2-3 minutes to stir them for the first time to get a good browning first. Then, stir occasionally, until most of the mushrooms are golden brown and slightly crisp, about 6–8 minutes. Season with freshly-ground pepper to taste.
If you have another skillet, repeat at the same time with the crown-tipped coral fungus. If not, wait until the first batch of baby bella and shiitake mushrooms is done. Heat 1/2 tbsp of the butter, throw in crown-tipped coral fungus onto the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and 1/2 tsp of caraway seed (or use a bit less if you're not a big fan). You can start stirring immediately because this one won't brown like the baby bellas or shiitake. Cook for about 5–6 minutes.
In the meantime, you can toss some greens with dressing. I like to make my own, super simple dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper. Transfer to a plate.
Divide sautéd baby bella and shiitake among toasts. Top with sautéd crown-tipped coral fungus, grated parmesan, and chopped wild chives.
Let me know what you think in the comments! I'd love to hear from you. Head to my Instagram account @fungiwoman for daily posts about my mushroom adventures. Also, check out my store for some mushroom-inspired products and sign up for the newsletter to get updates.
All photography © 2020 FUNGIWOMAN
- A Brief History of the Kingdoms of Life by Piter Kehoma Boll, Earthling Nature, December 2011.
- Artomyces pyxidatus by Michael Kuo, MushroomExpert.com, April 2007.
- Clavicorona pyxidata by Tom Volk, TomVolkFungi.net, Retrieved June 2020.
- Club and Coral Fungi by David Malloch, Natural History of Fungi — New Brunswick Museum, Retrieved June 2020.