There's a Fungus Amoungus -
The Shiitake Way



Although the shiitake has been cultivated in Asia for at least 2,000 years, it is just now becoming accepted here in the U.S. One reason for their absence here was a previous ban on the importation of live shiitake due to a confusion over the Latin name. The USDA mistook shiitake, Lentinus edodes (oak fungus) for Lentinus lepideus, a fungus which attacks railroad ties. This ban was lifted in 1972 and the use of shiitake in health-conscious and gourmet cooking has been on the rise ever since.

This rise in popularity is for good reason too. Not only are shiitake delicious but they are very good for you. The large mushrooms can be eaten often, as a side dish or a main entree. In Japan, many households include them with every meal and they are often given as gifts when traveling to friends' or relatives' homes. They can easily be substituted for meat, nutritionally and aesthetically.

Here's to Health...
In addition to being high in protein, low in fat and devoid of cholesterol, shiitake have no natural toxins in them and are less likely to be contaminated with pesticides as the more common button mushrooms are. Shiitake contain eritadenine, a compound which Japanese researchers show may help the body remove cholesterol from the bloodstream. Shiitake also contains a compound called lentinan which seems to increase activity of immune defenses against viruses and tumor cells. Dried and powdered shiitake are often combined with medicinal herbs in Chinese patent formulas. The lentinan is provided in both fresh & dried shiitake. (*Note: it is highly recommended that shiitake mushrooms be cooked rather than eaten raw. Some people have an allergic reaction [appears as a skin rash] to eating raw mushrooms, particularly children.)

Good For the Earth Too...
One other benefit of the cultivation of shiitake, both in Japan and growing in popularity here in the U.S. is that it decreases the need to harvest forests for (lumber) income. If income can be obtained from harvesting a few old trees for spore inoculation, landowners are less in need of harvesting masses of trees for lumber production. In Japan, a country with very little land mass to begin with, the shiitake industry is responsible for retention of at least 10 percent of their forests. Instead of clear-cutting our own native forests to make room for monoculture paper producing forests, we could utilize the present ecosystem for cultivation of various kinds of fungi.

It would seem wise to include the delicious flavor and appealing texture of these fruits of the earth in our daily fare. Eat well, live long and prosper.

Note: Whether cooking with fresh or dried shiitakes, you should remove and discard the stems which are fibrous and tough and quite devoid of nutrition anyway, definitely a waste by-product.

Shiitake Stock

  1. Combine 1 1/2 oz. dried shiitake (stems removed), 1/2 lb.sliced fresh shiitake (stems removed), 1 large sliced leek, 2 stalks celery, chopped, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. dried sage, 4 cloves garlic, chopped, 1/3 cup parsley, chopped, 1 tsp. tamari, 9 cups water in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock and discard all the vegetables except the mushrooms. Save the mushrooms for other dishes. Reduce heat and continue to cook the stock at a simmer for 15 minutes or more to intensify the flavor.
  3. Makes approximately 7 cups of stock. (Can be frozen for future use.)

Shiitake Stroganoff
  1. In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups nonfat yogurt and 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 medium onions, thinly sliced, and cook 5 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to low and add 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced and 1 1/2 lbs. sliced fresh shiitake (stems removed). Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/3 cup dry sherry or apple cider vinegar and cook 10-15 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle with paprika. Pour over baked potatoes, rice or noodles.
  4. Serves 4

Shiitake Potato Pancakes
  1. Peel and rinse under water, then g rate 3 raw medium-sized potatoes. Squeeze to drain the excess moisture. Place the potatoes in a large bowl, and add 2 lbs. fresh shiitake, sliced in thin strips (stems removed), 1 small onion, minced, 4 eggs, slightly beaten, 2 Tbs. low-fat milk or soymilk, 3-4 Tbs. organic whole wheat flour and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil on medium-high, and measure out enough mix to make 4-inch pancakes. Press down the center of the patties, so they will cook evenly and fry until golden brown. Add additional oil, 1 tsp. at a time as needed.
  3. Serve immediately with a spoonful of apple sauce on the side.
  4. Serves 8

Shiitake Sauce for Pasta
  1. Thinly slice 3/4 lb. fresh shiitake (stems removed) and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1/4 cup minced onion, and 1 large clove garlic, minced. Cook until they are soft, but not brown. Add the shiitake, raise the heat a little and cook 10 minutes longer. Add a little water or vegetable stock to keep the mushrooms from sticking.
  2. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup half-and-half or soymilk. Serve over hot pasta.
  3. Serves 4 as a side dish.

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: May 23, 1996