Shiitake mushrooms are a treasured ingredient in Asian cuisine. Their rich, smoky flavor is popularly applied to soy-based and stir-fried dishes. They have also been used extensively in traditional Asian medicine, and are thought to promote longevity. Their caps come in all shades of brown, and their golden and amber hues make them especially inviting.
Shiitake mushrooms are set apart from other mushrooms by their wide brown caps and curled rims. The colors of the caps vary from caramel brown to dark golden brown, while the underside is usually cream-colored. The gills are well-defined and moist.
Shiitake mushrooms have a firm, meaty, almost buttery texture. In fact, shiitake mushrooms are often used in vegetarian cooking to mimic the hearty texture of animal protein. Their rich, smoky, and robust flavor enhances the flavor of nearly any food, but also tastes great on its own.
Shiitake mushrooms are the second most widely produced mushrooms in the world. They can usually be found in generic grocery stores and certainly in Asian markets.
Shiitake mushrooms are available all year round.
When buying shiitake mushrooms, look for dark brown caps and a cream-colored underside. Fresh mushrooms are plump, firm, and have cleanly curled edges.
Avoid mushrooms that have dark spots or bruises. Mushrooms that feel greasy and slippery are beginning to decompose.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. Shiitake mushrooms, like other mushrooms, are very porous, thus easily absorb pesticides and other farming chemicals. They are ranked 35 on EWG’s pesticide residue list. Purchase organically grown shiitake mushrooms if concerned about possible contamination.
Gather mushrooms loosely in a closed paper bag and keep them in the refrigerator for about a week. Store dried shiitake mushrooms in a sealed container and place them in the refrigerator or freezer, where they should remain fresh for up to a year.
Mushrooms are very porous and will get soggy if placed under water. Instead, clean shiitake mushrooms with a damp cloth or by gently using a brush.
Sautéing is the most common method for cooking shiitake mushrooms; however, they can also be roasted, grilled, and skewered. Cook shiitake mushrooms with onions and garlic for a richer, smokier flavor.
Composed of amino acids (building blocks of protein), this essential nutrient aids in the healing of wounds and the growth of hair, skin, and nails; provides a substantial amount of energy and satiation; catalyzes metabolic reactions; and promotes a healthy hormonal and immune system response.
Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
Although commonly described as a mineral, selenium behaves like an antioxidant, helping to reduce the number of free radicals in the body. This may aid in slowing the visible signs of aging, protecting cardiovascular health, and promoting the immune system.
These scavenger molecules are found in a variety of “super foods” such as berries, vegetables, and a variety of nuts and seeds. Antioxidants are important for fighting free radicals that may be associated with aging, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
A non-digestible carbohydrate, fiber provides a feeling of fullness, aids digestive support, helps provide the movement and excretion of bodily wastes, and aids blood-sugar stability.
Shiitake mushrooms have a long history of medicinal use. In recent years, studies analyzing their anti-cancer properties found that their concentration of lentinan may help prevent cancer. Consuming shiitake mushrooms on a regular basis is believed to boost the body’s immune system. Consequently, these mushrooms are said to prevent viruses and infections, and also prevent heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels.
- Shiitake mushrooms have been growing wild in East Asia since prehistoric times.
- A fresh shiitake mushroom consists of 75 percent water, giving it a more intense and chewy flavor than other types of fungi.
- Today’s shiitake mushrooms are also being cultivated on artificial logs and sawdust blocks.