Shiitake Mushrooms: Everything You Need to Know
The Shiitake Mushroom is a little, underrated gem of the fungi world. And, in our humble opinion, it needs to be celebrated and featured in more diets around the world.
In this article at the Garden Bench Top, we are going to take you on a little journey into the world of shiitake mushrooms. We will explore the background of the humble mushroom, how they differ from their more famous cousins like the oyster mushroom and button mushrooms.
We’ll also look at how you can cultivate your own shiitake mushrooms at home. And for those who like to learn, we have some bits and pieces to tickle your trivia bone in our frequently asked questions.
So grab your bags, because we’re about to dive in.
What are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Now, bear with us, because this is where we have to change into our lab coats. We’re going to get a bit scientific here, but only momentarily. We’ll be back to the good old green thumbs that we are in no time.
The scientific name for Shiitake mushrooms is Lentinus edodes. They originate from South-East Asia, commonly found around Japan and China.
You can tell shiitake mushrooms apart from other mushrooms due to their distinct large, dark-brown mushroom caps. The caps can span approximately 2 – 4 centimeters. But, what makes the shiitake mushroom distinct from other edible mushrooms is the long cream-colored slender stems, giving them a unique umbrella look.
What makes Shiitake Mushrooms stand apart from the rest?
Where the shiitake mushroom comes into their own, is the taste and aromas that it brings to the culinary scene.
Shiitake mushrooms bring a meaty texture to dishes, that would otherwise be boring and lacking. This is particularly useful in vegetarian and vegan dishes that require an added layer of texture, like risottos and soups.
But the shiitake doesn’t stop there. They are also known to deliver an umami Earthy Flavor to dishes, which can take the complexity to the next level. Again, this savory or meaty taste can inject some much-needed flavor into otherwise boring, bland dishes.
What are the health benefits of including Shiitake Mushrooms in your diet?
Like other mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms contain a multitude of nutritional benefits.
Shiitake mushrooms are especially high in vitamin B, an essential vitamin the body requires to maintain cell metabolism for the immune cells, brain health and energy levels.
They are also known for their source of selenium and vitamin D, which is a fat soluble vitamin that helps to absorb calcium and phosphorus into the bones, promoting strong healthy bones.
Shittake mushrooms have other purported health benefits to weight loss, and provides anti-cancer properties.
Can you grow Shittake Mushrooms at Home?
If you are a regular visitor at the Garden Bench Top, you would probably be able to guess what we are going to say here – and that is a resounding YES to growing your own shiitake mushrooms at home. Many budding gardeners have successfully grown many types of mushrooms in their own garden, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a go.
Check out how easy it is to begin your journey with our ‘Guide to Growing Shiitake Mushrooms’
What we love is you don’t need any expensive or fancy equipment, and the raw materials are readily available.
Shittake Mushrooms – Frequently Asked Questions
In this section we are going to attempt to address all those questions that seem to come out of the woodwork (pun intended) only AFTER you experience them. Let’s get into it.
Shiitake Mushrooms – Why Do you Discard the Stems?
Even though the shiitake mushrooms stems are one of their unique and identifying characteristics, they are actually not that edible. They are extremely tough to eat and will result in an unpleasant eating experience.
It is also important to note, unlike other mushrooms (like button and portabello), the stems of the shiitake mushrooms are not easy to twist off. We recommend using a short sharp knife to cut the stems as close to the mushroom cap as possible.
Not all is lost though, you can use the stems as a flavor enhancer for broths and soups.
What is the difference between shiitake mushrooms and regular mushrooms?
The main notable difference any mushroom fanatic will notice is the intense umami flavor shiitake mushrooms can inject into a dish. They have a distinct woody flavor that elevates dishes to another level.
Whereas, other edible mushrooms are generally more subtle in flavor and you will require greater volumes to achieve the same level of taste.
The texture of shiitake mushrooms are also unique. They deliver a more chewy (almost meaty) texture to dishes. This is great for developing different layers of texture in those vegetarian or vegan dishes that can sometimes have a monotone textured experience.
How to tell is shiitake mushrooms are bad?
Telltale signs that shiitake mushrooms have started to pass their use by date is when the flesh of the mushroom cap no longer appears plump and juicy. This is usually indicated by wrinkles and the flesh has started to shrink.
Another warning sign is when your shiitake mushroom is slimy to touch. This can happen when you have kept your shiitake mushrooms in the refrigerator for too long.
This brings us to the next question below…
How to store shiitake mushrooms?
When you are storing fresh shiitake mushrooms, you should keep them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator for a maximum of 3 – 5 days.
The brown paper bag will be able to absorb any excess moisture from your raw shiitake mushrooms, while also allowing them to breathe.
If you are storing dried shiitake mushrooms, we recommend storing them in an air – tight glass jar in a dark space (like the pantry). If you follow these instructions, in theory, you can keep dried shiitake mushrooms indefinitely – as long as they are dry.
What Next for Shiitake Mushrooms?
Now that you are an expert in shiitake mushrooms, we highly encourage you to try growing your own fresh mushroom at home.
Not only are you rewarded with a delicious gourmet mushroom, the process of growing your own food and become self-sufficient is a gratifying journey.