Thanks for stopping by Shiitake Mushrooms Dot Info, where it is our purpose to share with you all of the wonderful information about our good friend the shiitake! Everyone ends up eating mushrooms in their salads and soups and more, but who ever stops to ask what kind of mushroom it is that they are eating? Most of the time, you are eating a shiitake mushroom and you didn’t even know it!
The Shiitake Mushrooms Basics
Shiitake is a Japanese word that world has accepted as the label for this unique fungus. In Latin, we call it Lentinula edodes so we can catalog it with every other living creature we’ve ever encountered on this planet. Shiitake mushrooms are edible and healthy mushrooms that originally grew in East Asia. Much of the shiitake of the world is grown there still and then dehydrated and shipped around the globe for everyone’s delight. Most Asian dishes use it as it is considered a delicacy.
Names for Shiitake Mushrooms
The reason it is called “shiitake” is that shii is a kind of tree in Japan that often times fruits these shiitake mushrooms from its dead log remains. A mycelium network grows throughout it and it provides the humidity needed to fruit these beauties. Many different countries have different names for these mushrooms. The Chinese call them “xianggu” and “donggu”, while the English call them “black forest mushrooms”. In Korea, they are called “pyogo.” In Thailand, these are named “hed hom.” And in Vietnam they are named “Nam hurong.” Most of these names mean “fragrant mushroom” for the wonderful smell they emit after open up.
Cultivation of Shiitake Mushrooms
We know that these mushrooms grow naturally all of the time. Birds end up eating spores and then defecating over forests. The spores mature into a mycelium network which then grows until it finds suitable temperature and humidity conditions until it can spawn the shiitake mushrooms themselves. That’s the natural process, whoever, we now can control this process and have been doing it for over 1,000 years! Isn’t that incredible?
People eat these for all kinds of reasons, mainly because they taste delicious, but because they supposedly have many medicinal benefits. So they are being grown for food and medicine. The way these were originally cultivated were by chopping down trees and butting them up against other logs that were already growing the shiitake mushrooms. This was long before we understood modern mycological methods of cultivating mushrooms.
Shiitake Mushrooms Spore Prints
Now, we can cut the stalks from the mushrooms so we have just the cap with the gills on bottom. You need to wait for this mushroom to drop it’s veil so that the spores can be released. If you place this mature cap onto a piece of paper, you end up with what is called a spore print. This can be saved and later used to create other mycelium networks to grow more and more shiitake mushrooms! This is so cool.
Culinary Use of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake can be used in two states for cooking. You can cook with them fresh right off the tree trunk, or you can dry them. Tons of Asian cuisines use them in both fashions, and will sauté them for all kinds of yummy dishes. Americans eat it constantly in miso soup and probably don’t even realize it. They can be boiled, steamed, or eaten as is.
The way that they are usually exported around the world is that they are dehydrated and shrink wrapped. This way they don’t suffer from rot and can be saved for later dates. These are chock full of protein and vitamin D, which is great for humans. Another way that is popular in places such as Russia is that the mushroom is pickled in vinegar. There are many ways to prepare and enjoy these wonderful mushrooms!
Medicinal Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are eaten quite often for their medicinal benefits. This all started with their supposed ability to balance chi, ki, and qi, all being the energy that flows through us and everything. But now, people eat them largely for their antiviral properties, which helps to slow down the replication of diseases and viruses in the body. So essentially, they are an immune system booster.
Shiitake also have the added benefit of being able to help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood stream, sometimes drastically. In general, as a dietary food, shiitake mushrooms include all of the essential amino acids that you’d hope to find in a quality food item. They also have many vitamins and minerals, including D, B, A, and C, which the body needs daily.
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