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The Cauliflower Fungus (Sparassis crispa) is a parasitic species of fungus in the family Sparassidaceae, whose large ocher-yellowish fruiting body is edible and with its curly branches resembles a bath sponge.

Sparassis crispa fructifies at the base of trunks or on stumps of conifers, especially Scots pine. Sporadically it has also been found on other pine species, larch, spruce and Douglas fir. Fruiting body spurts may emerge several years in a row in almost the same location. The fungus can occur with its host trees on a wide variety of soil types, but these must not be too dry or too wet.

Fruiting bodies appear from July to December, with a distinct maximum in September and October.

A native large porling, common throughout Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. It is considered a dangerous forest pest that causes brown rot. However, when incultivated, it is not noticeable, the mycelium and spent substrates remain white. Sparassis crispa can change its parasitic way of life to saprobiontic and is therefore cultivable.

Especially in the extensive pine forests of eastern Germany, Sparassis crispan is for the foresters on the one hand an unpleasant tree-damager, but for mushroom pickers a common and much sought-after edible mushroom. The flesh is somewhat gristly when raw, the smell is nutty-aromatic and slightly resinous. When prepared, the Curly Hen is firm to the bite and tasty. It can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for a week or more, even when cut, and is also good in dried form for sauces. The cleaning of the fruit body from soil residues and needles is somewhat complicated. But if you immerse it briefly in boiling water, it becomes elastic and is easier to rinse under running water. Alternatively, you can cut the fruiting body into two to three centimeter thick slices and place them in the water. This makes it easier to remove unwanted material.

The Cauliflower Fungus penetrates into the heartwood of the tree via injuries to the roots or lower trunk area of the tree. There, it causes intense brown rot (lignin is not broken down) up to a low height, with an odor similar to that of turpentine. The fungus can also live saprobiontically in stumps for several years and from there infest new host woody plants.

1. Growing

Growing Procedure

Bag or jar cultures are possible with Sparassis crispa. There are also reports of successful stem inoculations or precultures buried in the forest soil.

Simple pasteurized substrates will hardly work for indoor cultivation, as the fungus grows in relatively slowly.

For this reason, only fully sterilized substrates should be used. Breeding successes confirm that the fungus needs a special substrate, which consists mainly of pre-treated pine shavings. However, breeding is also successful on sterilized stem sections, as can be seen from successes in the USA.

Some successful growers first expose their substrate to fermentation to make it easier for Sparassis crispa to break down the otherwise very resinous pine. Therefore, resin-free coniferous pet litter may be a good alternative.

Aim for only single fruiting bodies on the substrate, better leave only a few fruiting windows for the culture instead of exposing it to large areas.


Agar Culture Media: MEA
Containers for fruiting:
Biological efficience:




Temp °C
18-23 17-20 18-23
Relative Humidity %
90-100 85-95 90-95
Duration d
50-55 7-14 7-14
CO2 ppm
>10000 0,3%
FAE per h
Light lux
250-300 800-1000

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Natural Habitat

Sparassis crispa has a meridional to temperate distribution in the Holarctic. It is found in Asia, North America, North Africa and Europe. In Europe, the fungus prefers the warmth-favored regions and is thus found mainly in southern, southeastern, western and central Europe. To the north, the distribution reaches northern Scotland and the southern coastal regions of Scandinavia, especially Sweden.

Root network of pine trees, less frequently in other conifers such as spruce, from summer to late autumn.

Growing Characteristics

Parasitic and/or saprophytic

2. Identification


-6-30 (50) cm Ø




-whitish stem
-growing at the base of the root system of a tree



-5-6 x 4-5 µm

Danger of confusion

Breitblättrige Glucke, Gluckenbecherling, Ästiger Stachelbart, Gelbe Koralle, Goldgelbe Koralle, Weinbraunverfärbende Koralle, Tannenstachelbart, Bauchwehkoralle, Eichhase, Klapperschwamm

© Chris E (Chris E)

3. Consuming


Popular among gourmets as a sauce mushroom, but cleaning a wild find can take hours. Sparassis crispa do well with cream. The nutty and strong mushroom flavor with a hint of nutmeg does not tolerate over-seasoning or too much concentration.


white to light yellow, elastic, hard, rubbery, brittle, marble-like when young


mild, bitter with age.


pleasantly aromatic

Nutritional content


4. Data med, edible

other names

Chinesisch (vereinfacht) 绣球菌
Deutsch Krause Glucke
Dänisch Blomkålssvamp
Englisch Cauliflower Fungus
Estnisch kährikseen
Finnisch kurttusieni
Französisch Clavaire crépue
Französisch Morille des pins
Französisch Sparassis crépu
Galizisch Repolo do monte
Japanisch ハナビラタケ
Litauisch Kopūstgalvis raukšlius
Niederländisch Grote sponszwam
Norwegisch blomkålsopp
Polnisch Siedzuń sosnowy
Russisch Грибная капуста
Russisch Спарассис курчавый
Schwedisch blomkålssvamp
Spanisch Hongo coliflor
Tschechisch kotrč kadeřavý
Ungarisch Fodros káposztagomba
Wissenschaftl. Name Clavaria crispa
Wissenschaftl. Name Sparassis crispa
Wissenschaftl. Name Sparassis crispa crispa

other names

Sparassis Crispa, Sparassis Radicata, Masseeola Crispa, Clavaria Crispa, Krause GluckeFette Henne, Bärenschädel, Ziegenbart, Riesenmorchel, Faisterling, Krauser Ziegenbart, Morchel-Bockpilz, Pilzkönig, Echte Krause-Glucke, Blumenkohlpilz, Feisterling, Feistling, Judenbart, Echter Ziegenbart, Bärentatze, Echte Holzhühner

Kingdom Fungi

Division Basidiomycota
Class Agaricomycetes
Order Polyporales
Family Sparassidaceae
Genus Sparassis
Species S. crispa
Ecology Saprotrophic

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