Shiitake or Shitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are a versatile food that can be eaten dried or fresh. Depending on the drying process, they usually remain in a “raw” state when dried.
Shiitake mushrooms are typically eaten with rice, sushi, or vegetables. They are quite versatile and taste delicious fried, baked, steamed, and even raw. In Europe, shiitake mushrooms are used in soups, ragout, and risotto. Alternatively, they can be added to stir-fries, served as a side, or cooked in sauces to go with pasta.
As a general rule, dried shiitake mushrooms should be soaked for about one hour before using. Dried shiitake mushrooms can also be pulverized into a fine powder that adds a delicious flavor to soups, sauces, and stews. The powder can also be used to make tea.
Shiitake mushrooms have a savory flavor known as umami, which is one of the five basic tastes recognized by scientists. The naturally occurring chemical glutamate allows the savory taste to develop on our tongues.1
You can use dried shiitake mushrooms to prepare tea To do this, soak the shiitake mushrooms in water for approximately one hour. Then cut the mushrooms into pieces and add two more cups of water. Leave them to simmer for 10–20 minutes until the water has reduced enough to make 1 cup of tea. Shiitake mushroom tea has quite an intense flavor, so it may be best to drink only half a cup at a time. As it has the ability to heal infections, shiitake extract is often found in teas dedicated to the treatment of colds and sore throats.
Since mushrooms are highly perishable, it is a good idea to dry them, especially if you are storing them in larger quantities. Once dried, they should be cleaned with a brush. Scales on the cap of shiitake mushrooms are perfectly normal and do not indicate inferior quality. Once the mushrooms are cleaned, they can be cut into pieces of equal size.
When drying mushrooms at home, the oven is a good option. Drying shiitake mushrooms in the sun is not recommended as it is hard to maintain a consistent drying temperature and mold can readily form.
Depending on the size of the mushrooms, set the temperature of the oven between 40 and 70 °C (104–158 °F). It is important to maintain a constant temperature, as well as to allow moisture to escape by cracking the oven door open a little with a small wooden spoon. It is difficult to provide an exact drying time. It normally takes between 2 and 8 hours until the mushrooms are really dry, but this time will vary based on the temperature and the size of the mushrooms. Remember to turn the mushrooms at least once during the drying process.
To preserve as many valuable nutrients as possible, we recommend drying the mushrooms for a longer period of time at a maximum temperature of 40 °C (104 °F). This also helps prevent the Maillard Reaction. The optimum drying temperature is reached when the moisture content of the mushrooms is less than 15 % moisture. As it is not easy to measure the moisture level, you can do a simple check to see if they are done: if they snap cleanly when bent, then they are ready. Once dried, leave the mushrooms to cool for about 30 minutes before storing in a tightly closed container.2
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Dried shiitake mushrooms are available at all major grocery stores such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Urban Fare, Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (CAN); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (GB). Often packaged in bags, they are not of organic origin. Shiitake mushroom powder and organic dried shiitake mushrooms can usually only be found online.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms (and often organic) can also be found in grocery stores or at local farmers markets. The two most popular types are donko mushrooms, which have a firm texture, a meaty flavor, and are picked before the caps open and koshin mushrooms, which have noticeably smaller caps that are widely open.1 Don’t buy mushrooms that have dried or cracked stems. Wrinkled caps, as well as any visible mucus, are also indications that the mushrooms are no longer fresh.
In China and Japan, shiitake mushrooms grow directly on trees in the forest. However, the mushrooms sold at the markets in Asia as well as in Europe and America are cultivated mushrooms.1
Dried shiitake mushrooms should be stored in a dark, dry and location in an air-tight jar or resealable bag. It is very important that dried mushrooms have as little contact as possible with moisture. Fresh shiitake mushrooms only keep for 3–4 days in the refrigerator.
Dried shiitake mushrooms contain more calories than fresh ones. Carbohydrates account for most of the 296 cal/100 g whereas the fiber content is 12 %. The fat content is negligible, and shiitake mushrooms have a protein content of almost 10 %. They are also a very rich source of vitamins. Twenty grams of dried shiitake mushrooms provide about 75 % of the daily requirement for pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) (22 mg/100 g). This percentage is based on the energy requirement of an average-size woman. In comparison, 20 g of dried porcini mushrooms provide only about 50 % of the daily requirement for vitamin B5 (15 mg/100 g). Dried seeds and herbs are much lower in vitamin B5.3
One hundred grams of shiitake mushrooms contains 75 µg biotin (vitamin B7); this is somewhat lower than dried porcini mushrooms (94 µg/100 g) or Moringa powder (93 µg/100 g). Dry yeast has even more biotin at 200 µg/100 g. In addition, 100 g of shiitake mushrooms contain between 80–90 % of the recommended daily requirement of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and vitamin D, as well as valuable minerals such as selenium, potassium, and zinc.3
It is well known that B vitamins are important for maintaining good metabolism and a healthy nervous system. Mushrooms are also renowned for their positive effects on digestion. Furthermore, shiitake mushrooms, which are also known as medicinal mushrooms, promote the important probiotic bacteria in the intestines and are therefore effective in fighting against harmful bacteria.4
The vitamin D found in shiitake mushrooms can also help those with little exposure to the sun to increase their vitamin D intake. However, the amount of vitamin D in shiitake mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the cultivation method used. If you place the mushrooms in direct sunlight after harvesting, it will increase the percentage of vitamin D they contain
Some people who eat shiitake mushrooms have allergic skin reactions (dermatitis). It was originally thought that these reactions were a result of consuming the mushrooms raw; however, the polysaccharide lentinan found in shiitake mushrooms is heat resistant. Allergic skin reactions can therefore also occur after eating cooked shiitake mushrooms.5
The dermatitis that appears after ingesting shiitake mushrooms is characterized by striped, whiplash-like redness that occurs on the arms, legs, and neck. The rash is very itchy and can last up to 8 weeks. These reactions can also occur even from skin contact with shiitake mushrooms. Those who are especially sensitive may also suffer respiratory problems when inhaling the fungal spores. Reactions to shiitake extract in tablet or capsule form have not yet been explored. Any potential allergy should therefore be identified before taking the extract. In any case, caution is always advised when taking dietary supplements.5
Known as the king of medicinal mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms are well known for their versatile healing properties. When eaten regularly, the polysaccharide beta-glucan lentinan found in shiitake mushrooms enhances the activation of the immune system. The body is thus better able to fight fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses on its own. The potent effects of lentinan go so far that shiitake mushrooms are used in the treatment of some AIDS patients in combination with other therapies.6,7
Studies on the curative effects of shiitake mushrooms for cancer come mainly from Japan. The polysaccharide lentinan can locate and destroy cancer cells. To this end, shiitake juice in the form of tablets or ampoules can be used. These have been shown to lower the number of metastases, and the use of radiation and antibody therapies are believed to have a stronger effect. In Japan, lentinan is injected as the consumption of the mushrooms alone would not suffice with these types of therapy.8
Further clinical studies on gastric cancer at advanced stages show that treatment with lentinan can prolong life.9 Similar results have also been found with breast, prostate, and colon cancer patients. The active ingredients found in shiitake mushrooms such as eritadenine or alpha-glucan AHCC help lower cholesterol along with having antitumor properties. AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound), a combination of polysaccharides, amino acids, fats, and minerals, has proven to be particularly effective against cervical cancer. It strengthens the body’s natural killer cells, enabling healing to take place.10,11 Shiitake mushrooms combined with folate-rich foods are a good recommendation for the prevention of cervical cancer.
Nonetheless, shiitake mushrooms have not gained any relevant significance in cancer treatment in Europe. It remains unclear as to whether or not fresh shiitake mushrooms have the same healing effects as the isolated substances used in medical studies.12
Shiitake mushrooms are hailed for their healing powers in Asian folk medicine and have a special significance in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In China and Japan, people eat yakuzen (recipes based on TCM) to treat inflammation, tumors, stomach ailments, headaches, dizziness, cirrhosis of the liver, and arteriosclerosis. Patients suffering from these conditions are advised to incorporate a regular intake of shiitake mushrooms into their diet.1
For thousands of years, shiitake mushrooms have been recognized in China and Japan as an important food and medicine. Today, shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are not only cultivated in Asia, but also in Europe and North America.
Shiitake mushrooms are unable to produce carbohydrates by themselves and therefore do not contain chlorophyll. They extract carbohydrates needed for their "growing" from surrounding living or dead plants. As a result, shiitake mushrooms grow on various deciduous trees, for example, on hardwood trees (beech, oak, chestnut, maple, or walnut). For the traditional cultivation of shiitake mushrooms, shii trees (chestnut trees) are cut down during the phase of "growing", while the nutrients found under the bark still taste sweet. These serve as the perfect food source for the spores of the shiitake plant.
Cultivated shiitake mushrooms are grown in greenhouses on a bedrock of materials such as sawdust and rice bran (at 20 °C with a humidity level of 80 %).
Shiitake mushrooms can also be grown at home. To do this, you will need shiitake mushroom cultures, which you can find in many garden centers or on the Internet. The pressed substrate (hardwood shavings) is inoculated with shiitake mushroom "yield". The cultures need to be put in a sun-protected, moist place either inside or in the garden. In the garden, be sure to protect the mushrooms from snails. Shiitake mushrooms need to be watered with clean, cold tap water, preferably with a showerhead. Stale water or rainwater is unsuitable as shiitake mushrooms are susceptible to foreign bacteria and fungi. Ripe, medium-size shiitake mushrooms are harvested with a sharp knife and cut off at the base of the stems. For each substrate bale, you can harvest 2–3 times the amount up to 500 g of shiitake mushrooms.13 Even if you just buy the mushroom "yield" (plug "yield"), you can inoculate fresh logs yourself using a dowel. Fresh shiitake mushrooms can be harvested several times a year from the cut logs.14
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes or Lentinus edodes) belong to the basidiomycete family (Marasmiaceae). They are sometimes categorized under Tricholomataceae.
According to Wikipedia, “take” means mushroom and “shii” refers to the tree on which the mushroom grows.
In English, they are most commonly known as shiitake mushrooms but other names include sawtooth oak mushrooms, black forest mushrooms, black mushrooms, golden oak mushrooms, and oakwood mushroom