Flavorful, earthy, shiitake mushrooms are next commonly cultivated types after button mushrooms. Originally, Shiitake are the fruiting bodies found on dead wood logs of "Shii tree" (Castanopsis cuspidata) from where they get their name. Botanically, they belong to the family: Marasmiaceae, and the genus: Lentinula.
Scientific name: Morchella esculenta.
Photo courtesy: Simon Huntley.
These edible fragrant mushrooms most commonly used in the East-Asian cuisine. Shiitake feature strong earthy flavor and chewy texture. They feature larger, fleshy caps with tough (woody) stalks. The cap is rounded convex, light brown in color, with undersurface gills appearing cream-white. They measure about 2-6 inches in diameter. The stem has 3-5 inches in length. The stems are woodier than the stems of most other mushrooms. Its white flesh is slightly acidic in flavor and but pleasant tasting and has meaty, distinct slippery texture.
|Cultivation of shiitke on wooden logs. Photo courtesy: dominlk18s|
In their natural habitat, shiitake mushrooms grow on old logs, dead tree trunks, and because of this they sometimes labeled as hardwood mushrooms. In the cultivated farms, their crop tended on custom sized logs, and sawdust. Spawn inoculated logs kept under shade for up to 8-12 months. Once the mycelia spread all along the length of the logs, they forced by submerging in cold water in order to time the crop for bulk harvesting. Each well maintained 4 feet length log could yield up to 2-4 pounds of shiitake at a time.
Shiitake, fresh or dried, are one of a low-calorie foods. 100 grams carry about 34 calories.
Shiitake compose of chemical constituents such as eritadenin, and polysaccharide lentinan. Eritadenine, a purine alkaloid, found to lower serum cholesterol levels in animal studies. Lentinan act as immune-modulator and known to inhibit tumor growth.
Shiitake indeed carry modest levels of vitamin D in the form of ergocalciferol (vit.D-2). 100 grams contain about 18 IU of vitamin D. It is an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for bone growth, and calcium metabolism.
The mushroom contain more niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine than button mushrooms. 100 g contain 0.293 mg of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine). Pyridoxine improves GABA neurotransmittor levels in the brain.
100 g of shiitake mushrooms carry 112 mg or 16% RDI of Phosphorus. Adequate calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood is critical for the proper mineralisation of bone and teeth.
Selenium is co-factor nutrient for the antoxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase. It plays a vital role in the integrity of liver and heart tissues.
Furtner, it is also a modest source of other important minerals like copper, zinc, and iron.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.49 g||2.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.5 g||7%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.500 mg||27%|
|Pyridoxine (B-6)||0.293 mg||23%|
|Vitamin D||18 IU mg||3%|
Fresh as well as dried shiitake can be readily available in the supermarkets round the year. Shiitake can be easily identified by their large, brown caps with thick woody stems. Choose uniform, well formed, firm mushrooms featuring small stems. Avoid large, opened up caps and tough stem mushrooms as they passed their prime.
Once at home, use them early. Shiitake mushrooms are a little less fragile than other mushrooms. To store, place them inside a paper bag and keep in the refrigerator where they stay fresh for up to 7- 10 days. Store dried shiitakes in a cold, dry, and dehumidified place.
Clean, fresh shiitake mushrooms with a cloth or damp paper towel. In general, you don't need them wash in water. If at all to give them a wash, hold them briefly under running water. Do not let them soak and dry them immediately. Trim the tough, fibrous stalks using a paring knife. Do not discard but use these stems to make stock.
Dried shiitakes should be soaked in water and revitalized before adding in cooking. Soak them in either hot or cold water until rehydrated. Do not discard the soaking liquid as is very flavorful and use it to prepare stock, or add in soups, sauces, stews, and stir-fries.
Smoky, earthy flavor and meaty, chewy texture of shiitake make them one of the most sought after kind of mushrooms worldwide. They can be used in the same way as any other mushrooms. They absorb the flavor of the dishes.
|Shiitake mushrooms in miso soup. Heidi De Vries|
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh shiitake are delicious sauteed, stir-fried, marinated and grilled, or braised.
Shiitake is delicious in soups, sauces, pasta dishes, rice, stews, and stir-fried dishes.
Broad shiitake can be employed in the stuffing.
Fine sliced, diced shiitake are a common featuring ingredients in pizza, pasta, pastry, and potpie preparations.
They also complement well with seafood, lamb, and poultry in a variety of mouth-watering recipes.
Allergic reactions to consumption of shiitake mushrooms is not common. Some sensitised persons who actively take part in the cultivation may develop allergic contact dermatitis to shiitake.(Medical disclaimer).
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Further reading and Resources:
Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk. (Link opens in new window).