Chicken of the woods mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) are sometimes called sulphur shelf, crab-of-the-woods, or sulphur polypore.…
Shimeji is a general name for several mushroom species. This article will concentrate on Shimeji mushrooms with the scientific name Hypsizygus tessellatus that are characterized by their long stalks and white caps with brown spots which are very popular in Japanese cuisine. The two main variants of Hypsizygus tessellatus are Buna-Shimeji (hon-shimeji) known in English as the brown beech or brown clamshell mushroom and Bunapi-Shimeji (hokuto shiro) which was selected from buna-shimeji, known in English as the white beech or white clamshell mushroom.
Where To Find Shimeji Mushrooms
Shimeji mushrooms grow natively in East Asia, Northern Europe as well as North America. In their wild form, you can spot them in clusters on the trunks of trees like beeches and birches. Hypsizygus tessellatus are saprotrophic, which means that they feed off dead and decaying matter.
They are available all year round.
How To Identify Them
Shimeji mushrooms have medium beige colored and smooth globe-like caps with off white slender stems that reach 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) in height. Their base is porous and thick and is inedible. Smaller fruiting bodies often occur in clusters of at least 10 mushrooms.
Shimeji mushrooms do not have any poisonous lookalikes, however, you should take care to harvest and cook shimeji mushrooms that feel smooth to the touch and do not have any blemishes on the exterior of their stalks.
How To Grow Shimeji Mushrooms
Shimeji mushrooms are a tad tricky to grow at home as they need multiple tools and a controlled environment to fruit. In addition to the spores, you’ll have to purchase several synthetic substances to incorporate in their growing container and use them in the right ratios or the mushrooms will simply fail to grow.
With that proviso, here is the basic process for growing them:-
- Combine 17.5oz. soluble starch with D-glucose (4 oz.), pectin (0.2oz.), yeast extract (0.55 oz), KH2PO4 (0.1 oz.), MgSO4 (0.1 oz.), and charcoal powder (0.1 oz). Mix in 5 quarts of water. You may also find a pre-nutrient mixture from your local supplier or online if you don’t want to measure these individually.
- Put some peat moss into a container with a broad opening that you can easily open. Combine the mixture of nutrients with the peat moss and stir well.
- Scatter 1 oz. of the Shimeji mushroom spores into the mixture of peat moss and nutrients. Combine well with your hands.
- Place the container with the mushroom spores in a temperature-controlled area such as a wine cellar. Adjust the temperature to around 80-85F with 80% humidity. Keep the mushroom culture in these settings for nearly 3 months.
- Once 3 months have passed, transfer the culture to an area exposed to fluorescent lighting, with a temperature of 60F and humidity of 85-95%. Keep the mushrooms in these conditions for a period of one month. The mushroom fruit bodies will start to grow significantly after 2 weeks. You may harvest them once they have reached an ideal size.
Shimeji mushrooms are naturally low in fat but high in protein, fiber and several other nutrients such as niacin, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus and copper. They also contain other rare compounds hypsin and marmorine with impressive antioxidant and anti-tumor properties. Here is a snapshot of the health benefits of shimeji mushrooms:
- Decreased insulin response. The fiber contained in shimeji mushrooms supports the faecal elimination of bile acids and helps control insulin response.
- Prevention of parasitic infections. Shimeji contain enzymes which help protect animals, plants and humans from various parasitic attacks.
- Potential anti-cancer action. Active compounds like hypsin and hypsiziprenol have been shown in some studies to stop the proliferation of cancer cells in sarcoma, leukaemia, lung, and hepatoma cancers.
- Hypertension treatment. Shimeji contain an oligopeptide that may help lower elevated blood pressure as well as mitigate the risk of strokes in high blood pressure patients.
- Anti-aging benefits. Shimeji mushrooms are rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and Vitamin C, which fight oxidative stress and slow down the tissue aging process.
How To Cook Shimeji Mushrooms
Always wipe Shimeji mushrooms clean and cook them so that they are both flavorful and safe for consumption. In their raw form they taste very strong and bitter and there might be contaminants that you shouldn’t consume. To cook them, you should cut their base off and separate the clusters with your hands.
The beauty of Shimeji is that they are incredibly versatile and their rich nutty taste with a hint of meatiness and smoke flavour is ideal for many cooking methods and recipes: grills, sautees, salads, stews, pasta dishes, risottos, pizzas, and much more. If you fancy something rich and creamy, here is a recipe to try out:
Ingredients (3-4 servings):
- 1 cup Shimeji, wiped clean and thickly sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 strips bacon, thinly cut
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup beef broth
- 1 pack of cooked spaghetti, rinsed
- Heat the butter in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bacon and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the heavy cream and beef broth and cook until they bubble.
- Serve the mushroom sauce over the cooked spaghetti and toss lightly to mix them.
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