Shiitake Mushrooms

I adore mushrooms. I like the texture of mushrooms and they taste delicious. Even as a child I eat them without complaint. The mushrooms I grew up with were the white button mushrooms. Later, through the pages of Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines, I discovered brown mushrooms and from there a whole world of mushrooms.

Have you ever foraged for mushrooms? It’s great fun. It is a popular pastime in Europe, in fact, the countryside of France is where I first foraged for mushrooms, with friend who knew which ones to pick. Now when I forage for mushrooms, it’s either at an open market or the produce section of a grocery store.

Most mushrooms I enjoy, but one inparticular is my favorite. It is revered both as a food and medicinal herb, it’s the valuable Shiitake, pronounced – she-TAH-kay. This member of the fungi family of edible mushrooms also goes by the names black forest mushroom, Chinese black mushroom and fragrant mushroom.

Nutritional Profile

Raw foodists, vegans, and vegetarian benefit greatly from shiitake, as it is one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin B12, and is one of a few known natural sources of vegan and kosher vitamin D (vitamin D2). Other bonuses, shiitake is low in calories, high in vegetable proteins, fat free, very low in sodium, contain both essential and non-essential amino acids, vitamins & minerals.

Shiitake mushrooms contain:

Calcium | Copper | Ergothioneine | Fiber | Flavonoids| Iron | Magnesium | Manganese | Phosphorus | Polysaccharides | Potassium | Protein | Selenium | Trypotophan | Vitamin B1 [Thiamin] | Vitamin B2 [Riboflavin] | Vitamin B3 [Niacin] | Vitamin B5 [Pantothenic Acid | Vitamin B6 [Pyridoxine] | Vitamin B9 [Folate – Folic Acid] | Vitamin B12 [Cobalamins] | Vitamin C | Vitamin D | Water | Zinc

Selecting

Shiitake are available year-round and are sold fresh and dried at farmer’s markets, Whole Foods stores, and in Asian markets. They range in color from tan to dark brown and the shiitake caps have a soft, spongy meaty texture.

Fresh shiitake ~ look for firm, spongy caps that are dry. Avoid mushrooms that are withered, with bruises, pits, or feel or look slimy. If possible, give them a sniff test. They should smell pleasant and earthy.

Dried shiitake ~ commonly sold in preserved packages. You may also consider drying your own mushrooms with a dehydrator.

Storing

Fresh shiitake mushrooms can keep for up to 14 days when stored in the refrigerator in its container or in a paper bag.

Store unopened packages of dried shiitakes [or any type of dried mushrooms] or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry area away from light exposure.

Preparing

Consider investing in a soft mushroom brush to brush away any clinging growing medium from fresh mushrooms, otherwise simply wipe them with a damp paper towel.

To reconstitute dried mushrooms, soak them in water for 20 – 30 minutes.

Culinary Tips

  • After reconstituting dried mushrooms, don’t throw out the water! Reserve it to use in soups, to enhance sauces, or use other ways in other recipes.
  • Equivalents: 1 pound fresh mushrooms = 3 ounces dried.
  • Dried shiitakes have more of an intense flavor than fresh shiitakes.
  • Do not soak fresh mushrooms, they are extremely porous and soak up water like a sponge.
  • Salt release the water in mushrooms.
  • Avoid using a lot of salt or soy sauce when using shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake is rich in glutamates so they are naturally enhanced with sodium.
  • To preserves any dried mushrooms, use several not too old bay leaves to retard and/or eliminate spore development.
  • Substitutes for Shiitake in recipes: crimini mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, straw mushrooms, chanterelles, porcini mushrooms, white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, baby bella, or a combination.

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