Shiitake mushrooms have a wide range of uses. They can be eaten fried, baked, or steamed, and also raw. Shiitakes taste good in risottos, soups, sauces, ragouts, and wok dishes. They also have positive effects on metabolism and are used in traditional medicine, for example, to treat inflammation, tumors, and stomach ailments.
From Wikipedia: “The shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries. It is considered a medicinal mushroom in some forms of traditional medicine.”
Habitat and distribution:
“Shiitake grow in groups on the decaying wood of deciduous trees, particularly shii, chestnut, oak, maple, beech, sweetgum, poplar, hornbeam, ironwood, mulberry, and chinquapin (Castanopsis spp.). Its natural distribution includes warm and moist climates in southeast Asia.”
“In a 100 gram amount, raw shiitake mushrooms provide 34 calories and are 90% water, 7% carbohydrates, 2% protein and less than 1% fat. Raw shiitake mushrooms are rich sources (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of B vitamins and contain moderate levels of some dietary minerals. When dried to about 10% water, the contents of numerous nutrients increase substantially.
Like all mushrooms, shiitakes produce vitamin D2 upon exposure of their internal ergosterol to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight or broadband UVB fluorescent tubes.”
“Fresh and dried shiitake have many uses in the cuisines of East Asia. In Japan, they are served in miso soup, used as the basis for a kind of vegetarian dashi, and as an ingredient in many steamed and simmered dishes. In Chinese cuisine, they are often sautéed in vegetarian dishes such as Buddha's delight.
One type of high-grade shiitake is called donko (冬菇?) in Japanese and dōnggū in Chinese, literally "winter mushroom". Another high-grade of mushroom is called huāgū (花菇) in Chinese, literally "flower mushroom", which has a flower-like cracking pattern on the mushroom's upper surface. Both of these are produced at lower temperatures.”
“Basic research is ongoing to assess whether consumption of shiitake mushrooms affects disease properties, although no effect has been proven with sufficient human research to date.”
“Rarely, consumption of raw or slightly cooked shiitake mushrooms may cause an allergic reaction called "shiitake dermatitis", including an erythematous, micro-papular, streaky pruriginous rash that occurs all over the body including face and scalp, appearing about 24 hours after consumption, possibly worsening by sun exposure and disappearing after 3 to 21 days. This effect – presumably caused by the polysaccharide, lentinan – is more common in Asia but may be growing in occurrence in Europe as shiitake consumption increases. Thorough cooking may eliminate the allergenicity.”
“There is research investigating the use of shiitake mushrooms in production of organic fertilizer and compost from hardwood.”