This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
Our next member of the Polyporus order, or tube-bearing fungi, is a unique member of the fungus tribe, and cannot be mistaken for any other species. An example of this species is shown in Plate 25, the beefsteak mushroom - Fistulina hepatica. The specimen from which my drawing was made was found growing at the foot of a chestnut-tree, and was about nine inches across by about two in greatest thickness. Its upper surface was dark meaty red or liver colored, somewhat wet, or viscid and clammy, and its taste slightly acid. The under tube surface was yellowish white, and, as the section will show, was proportionately thin - the pores being about one-eighth of an inch in length. The solid red substance much resembled meat, and in sections was streaked with darker lines of red, as indicated in plate, somewhat suggesting a section of beet-root.
Though not common in my vicinity, I nevertheless succeed in obtaining a few specimens during the season. It varies greatly in size and shape. M. c. Cooke, in his admirable "plain and easy" account of British fungi, says of it: "When old it affords an excellent gravy, and when young, if sliced and grilled, would pass for a good beefsteak. Specimens are now and then met with that would furnish four or five men with a good dinner, and they have been collected weighing as much as thirty pounds. The liver, or paler pinkish meaty color, clammy viscidity, and streaky section are sufficient guides in the recognition of this species."
It is a highly prized article of diet on the Continent where the arts of the chef are ingeniously employed in endless recipes for its savory preparation, often, it would seem, with the main object of obliterating as far as possible all trace of the delicate flavor of the mushroom per se.
If the readers experience correspond with the writer's in his mycological experiments "a la mode," he will gladly fall back to the plain plebeian method of simply broiling over the coals, or frying or roasting in the pan, with the least possible seasoning of pepper, salt, and butter, relying upon his mushroom to furnish the predominant zest and flavor.
Other hints for serving this fungus are given in a later chapter. Besides the common name of "beefsteak mushroom," it is also known on the Continent as the "oak tongue," and "chestnut tongue."
Savory qualities. Culinary preparation
The Beefsteak Mushroom. Fistulina Hepatica
Pileus: Diameter, average specimen, about six inches, occasionally twice or three times this size; color varying from pinkish to dark meaty red; surface roughened with minute papillae; soft and moist.
Flesh: Light red, streaked with darker red; tender and juicy in young specimens; juice light red.
Tube surface: Creamy in color; tubes distinct from each other, crowded, very short, as shown in section opposite.
Stem: Short or obsolete, growing at the side.
Taste: Slightly acid.
Habitat: On the stumps and trunks of oak and chestnut trees.
Plate XXV. Fistulina Hepatica.