© Denzil Green
Shiitake Mushrooms are one of the two most popular mushrooms in the world, the other being Agaricus Mushrooms (white button mushrooms.)
The stalk of a Shiitake Mushroom can be 4 to 5 inches tall (10 to 12 cm.) The cap can be 2 to 4 inches wide (5 to 10 cm.) The cap appears scaly on top, with edges that roll up underneath the cap. The caps are brown (either light or dark); the gills underneath are white.
If a Shiitake has a closed cap, the Japanese call it a “donko.” The caps will be thick and cracked. They are very meaty. These are the most expensive ones. The spring-season ones, which have open caps, are called “Koshin”; these are less expensive.
Like most mushrooms, Shiitake can decompose material to get its own food out of the material (Agaricus mushrooms are an exception: they can’t.) Shiitakes are now cultivated on sawdust with rice bran.
Shiitake have a mild, meaty flavour and a spongy, chewy texture. They can hold their own against stronger flavours like beef, pork and soy sauce.
Widely grown in Asia, they are now being cultivated in North America and Europe as well.
They are available fresh or dried. The dried ones have better, more concentrated flavour; the fresh ones have better texture.
Don’t cook fresh Shiitakes very long or they will toughen. The stalks are tough. Wash them, trim them off and toss into a freezer bag and freeze for future boiling in making a stock.
4 oz fresh Shiitake Mushroom caps = 115g = 1 1/2 cups chopped or sliced
Native to Asia. The Chinese learned how to cultivate them back in 1200 AD.
In Japanese, “shii” means oak tree. The name means therefore “mushroom of the oak tree”.