Shiitake Mushrooms, long a symbol of longevity in Asia because of their health-promoting properties, been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years.
More recently, their rich, smoky flavor has endeared them to American taste buds. These exotic hearty mushrooms can now be found fresh or dried in supermarket shelves.
Shii (OAK)- take (MUSHROOM)
Like other mushrooms, these specialty mushrooms are as mysteriously unique as they are delicious.
While often thought of as a vegetable and prepared like one, mushrooms are actually a fungus, a special type of living organism that has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds.
They belong to the basidiomycete family of fungi, and its’ genus-species name, Lentinula edodes.
They have been called the “miracle mushroom” due to their powerful immune boosting and cancer fighting properties.
They contain all eight of the essential amino acids and vitamins such as B12, A, D, and C. They are an excellent source of copper, pantothenic acid, and selenium.
They are a very good source of vitamin B2 and zinc. Additionally they are a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, choline, dietary fiber, vitamin D, and folate.
Shiitakes have long been recognized as a very good, non-animal food source of iron. But a recent preliminary study has determined that the bioavailability of iron from shiitake mushrooms may be even better than we thought.
Although conducted on laboratory animals (female rats) rather than humans, this study found the iron in dried shiitake mushroom to be equally as bioavailable as supplemental iron in the form of ferrous gluconate.
Shiitakes also contain interferons which are natural proteins that have strong antiviral effects on the body. Interferons have the ability to inhibit the replication of viruses, bacteria, parasites, and cancerous cells.
Shiitakes extracts contain a significant amount of 1,3 beta-glucan and lentinan which has been shown to slow tumor growth, reduce tumor activity, and lessen the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
Shiitakes have also been known to benefit heart disease, hepatitis, and auto-immune disorders such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibrocystic breast disease, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Shiitakes also can help to regulate blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, thin the blood, and aid in preventing strokes and heart attacks.
Shiitakes are among the few natural sources of germanium, a mineral that has the ability to counteract the effects of pollutants and increase resistance to disease.
Shiitakes are also rich in zinc which is highly beneficial for treating viral and bacterial infections, regulating prostate gland functioning, and for healing skin problems.
When taken in supplement form as a capsule, tincture, or powder as a medicinal, one must always respect is as medicine and use wisely, as prescribed.
They can be added to your soup, salad, grain, and vegetable dishes. Mushrooms are very porous, so if they are exposed to too much water they will quickly absorb it and become soggy.
To clean mushrooms without sacrificing their texture and taste is to clean them using minimal, if any, water. Simply wipe them with a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen cloth. You could also use a mushroom brush, available at most kitchenware stores.
If the fresh mushrooms become dried out because of being stored for too long, soak them in water for thirty minutes. Dried Shiitakes are also available, just soak for 30 minutes and use as needed, and the water that they soak in is also very good to use in recipes.
Look for mushrooms that are firm, plump and clean. Those that are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots should be avoided.
Shiitake mushrooms are traditionally added to miso soup.
Sauté mushrooms with onions and garlic and serve as a side dish or as a topping for chicken, beef, lamb or venison.
To give your vegetable stock an extra depth, add dried shiitake mushrooms. For a quick and easy Asian pasta dish, healthy sauté shiitake mushrooms with snap peas and tofu.
Season to taste and serve over buckwheat soba noodles (or your favorite type of pasta).
Shiitakes can be one of the most sustainable foods in your diet!
While the majority of shiitakes produced worldwide have been grown on sawdust block in a non-natural setting, it is fully possible for shiitake to be produced on natural hardwood logs in a forest setting.
This approach to shiitake mushroom production is called “forest farming” and it has become an especially popular way of growing shiitake mushrooms in the U.S, where there are now more than 200 shiitake mushroom growers. (Link about forest farming shiitakes)
There are also many kits available to grow at home. Take care and follow the instructions for best outcomes.