When the mushroom is young, it has a very short stalk with the cap inside a egg-like skin (no one says it, but frankly it looks like a penis head inside a foreskin.) As the mushroom matures, the stalk pushes itself and the cap upwards, causing the cap to burst out of the egg-like foreskin. The skin or shell falls back, making a cup at the base. The mushrooms are usually harvested when still in the egg stage, before the cap has burst out. When harvested in the egg stage, they are called “unpeeled”; when harvested with the caps open, they are called “peeled.” Unpeeled ones have a more pronounced flavour. When the mushroom is allowed to mature, the cap would be up to 5 inches wide (12.5 cm.)
They are available canned or dried outside Asia. When canned, they are usually cut at the base of the stalk so the volva bit at the base is removed.
They are tender with a bland flavour. Dried ones will have more concentrated flavour.
They are used a great deal in Chinese cooking.
Rinse the canned ones before using. Discard the liquid from the can.
People from Asia picking wild mushrooms in North America often confuse it with the Death Cap mushroom Amanita phalloides, which is very easy to, as it looks very similar, and the Death Cap doesn’t grow where they come from. However, as the saying goes, you only confuse it once.
Store opened tins in the fridge for up to a few days in water (not in the water from the can).
The Chinese seem to have started cultivating Straw Mushrooms on straw by the 1820s. They are now actually grown on cotton plant waste since the 1970s (the process was developed in Hong Kong), as the yields are far higher than when grown on paddy straw (or other materials that were tried, such as rice straw, banana leaves, etc). Cotton waste is also called “gin trash”. When the cotton is ginned to extract the seeds and the lint to make cotton with, this is the plant material left over.
Cultivated on straw, thus their name.
The German name, “Reisstrohpilze”, breaks down as Reis (“Rice”) Stroh (Straw) Pilze (Mushrooms).
Some people think the aroma is musky, and one of the Italian names, “Funghi di muschio” alludes to that.