Rare, Medium or Well Done? – Beef Steak Fungus

It’s a comical sight and nice surprise when you first come across an oak tree sticking it’s pinky red tongue out at you! It’s happened to me a few times and I seem to be getting use to it.

This is the common Beef Steak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica) found during late summer and autumn. It’s a parasitic species usually found at the base of oak trees and sometimes horse chestnut. It definitely looks freaky when younger, it’s fleshy protrusion almost exactly mimicking the tongue of an Ox!

The colour initially is pinkish then getting redder and finally brown with age. You must get touchy-feely with a younger specimen because it has a spooky ‘flesh’ like feel, maybe even a little rubbery. The surface even has the warty tongue taste buds on! The pale yellow pores on the underside which age red-brown sometimes leak a blood-red juice. This also adds to the overall wierdness of this critter. Marvellous stuff.

The common ‘Beef Steak’ definition naturally refers to the flesh which resembles raw steak. And I know what your asking, and the answer is no! It doesn’t taste like beef steak. It is edible though but can be quite bitter (younger ones more so). You can simmer it or soak it in milk for a day to help reduce this bitterness. I intend to try it very soon and will hopefully mention in a later post. There is no worry in identification. There’s nothing out there that even gets close to resembling our ‘beefy’!

Beef Steak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)

A young example of a Beef Steak Fungus resembling a pink-red tongue!

One last snippet of trivia for you – this fungus can cause ‘brown rot’ in the infected tree, which in turn makes for a very sought after kind of timber. In the furniture industry it is named ‘brown oak’ and is in much demand. It is richer brown in colour to normal uninfected oak. Sometimes only slightly infected trees can create a ‘striped’ pattern in the wood – a mixture of light and dark.

The photos shown above are of a young individual. All the other shots I have of previous encounters have been munched to pieces by the local, and very hungry insect mobs. The older the fungus gets, the tougher the consistency. Colour also changes from an orange-red through to a purple-brown.

Older Beef Steak Fungus

As the Red flesh of the Beef Steak Fungus grows older it will be deeper red in colour and may lose some of it’s surface texture due to weather and insect/animal interference.

7 replies
  1. Richard Percy
    Richard Percy says:

    I have just found a couple of these, i ate a slice raw and didn’t find it very bitter and really not a bad taste. I have refrigerated them but wondered if you know what is the best way of storing them?

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      That’s good to hear about the bitterness not being there. In fact someone else emailed me and mentioned that it wasn’t that bitter either. I think if you get them at the right time (ie. not too young or too old) there’s a chance there won’t be much bitterness. Much younger specimens will be too bitter for some people though.

      I have read that after slicing & boiling in a few batches of water it will be perfect for drying and pickling.
      If you want to keep the whole fungus I think a spell in the freezer would be OK. I haven’t tried that. But if anyone else has then please leave a comment.


    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Edward. I don’t think they’d be good to eat at that age. Like all mushrooms and fungi, it’s always best to eat them when they are young to healthily mature.



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  1. […] but it is edible. It does smell quite nice but can taste quite bitter in taste. But just like the Beefsteak Fungus, there maybe be a cooking preparation method to make this taste better. I haven’t tried […]

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