Shitake Mushrooms

The Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) (from Japanese 椎茸シイタケ (Shiitake?)) is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries, as well as being dried and exported to many countries around the world.

It is a feature of many Asian cuisines includingVietnamese,  Chinese,  JapaneseKorean and  Thai.In the East, the shiitake mushroom has long been considered a delicacy as well as a medicinal mushroom.[1]

Taxonomy and naming

It is generally known in the English-speaking world by its Japanese name, shiitake[citation needed]About this sound listen (help·info) (kanji: 椎茸; literally “shii mushroom”, from “shii” the Japanese name of the tree Castanopsis cuspidata that provides the dead logs on which it is typically cultivated).

In Chinese, it is called xiānggū (香菇, literally “fragrant mushroom”). Two Chinese variant names for high grades of shiitake are dōnggū (Chinese冬菇, “winter mushroom”) and huāgū (花菇, “flower mushroom”, which has a flower-like cracking pattern on the mushroom’s upper surface); both are produced at lower temperatures. Other names by which the mushroom is known in English include Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom. In Koreanit is called pyogo (hangul: 표고), in Thai they are called hed hom (เห็ดหอม, “fragrant mushroom”), and in Vietnamese they are called nấm hương (“fragrant mushroom”).

The species was formerly known as Lentinus edodes and Agaricus edodes. The latter name was first applied by the English botanist Miles Joseph Berkeleyin 1878.

Cultivation history

Shiitake are native to China and Japan and have been grown in both Japan and China since prehistoric times.[2] They have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. The oldest record regarding the shiitake mushroom dates back to AD 199 at the time of Emperor Chūai in Japan.[3] However, the first written record of shiitake cultivation can be traced to Wu Sang Kwuang, born during the Sung Dynasty (AD 960–1127).[4]

During the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644), physician Wu Juei wrote that the mushroom could be used not only as a food but as a medicinal mushroom, taken as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost qi, or life energy.[5] It was also believed to prevent premature aging.

The Japanese cultivated the mushroom by cutting shii trees with axes and placing the logs by trees that were already growing shiitake or contained shiitakespores. Before 1982, the Japanese variety of these mushrooms could only be grown in traditional locations using ancient methods. In 1982, Gary F. Leatham published an academic paper based on his research on the budding and growth of the Japan Islands variety; the work helped make commercial cultivation possible in United States.[6] Dr. Leatham is known in the industry as the “father of shiitake farming in the USA.”[citation needed]

In the United States, shiitake cultivation got off to a slow start, due to the USDA confusing the mushroom with an invasive species known as Lentinus lepideus. The USDA realized their mistake in 1972 and allowed importation and cultivation.[7]

Culinary use

Fresh and dried shiitake have many uses in the cuisines of East Asia. In Chinese cuisine, they are often sauteed in vegetarian dishes such as Buddha’s delight. In Japan, they are served in miso soup, used as the basis for a kind of vegetarian dashi, and also as an ingredient in many steamed and simmered dishes. In Thailand, they may be served either fried or steamed.

Shiitake are often dried and sold as preserved food in packages. These must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Many people prefer dried shiitake to fresh, considering that the sun-drying process draws out the umami flavour from the dried mushrooms by breaking down proteins into amino acidsand transforms ergosterol to vitamin D. The stems of shiitake are rarely used in Japanese and other cuisines, primarily because the stems are harder and take longer to cook than the soft fleshy caps. The highest grade of shiitake are called donko in Japanese.

Today, shiitake mushrooms have become popular in many other countries as well. Russia produces and also consumes large amounts of them, mostly sold pickled; and the shiitake is slowly making its way into western cuisine as well. There is a global industry in shiitake production, with local farms in most western countries in addition to large scale importation from China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere.

Because they can now be grown world wide, their availability is widespread and their price has decreased.

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}