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Botanical name: Lentinus edodes



As the name suggests, this mushroom stems from the Far East, more precisely from Japan, where, in addition to other Asian countries, it has been cultivated for centuries. These regions also supply the largest amounts for the world markets. In the meantime, shiitake mushrooms are also familiar to us; the fresh mushrooms frequently come from domestic cultures, the tinned and dried shiitake mushrooms from Japan, China and Korea.


As shiitake mushrooms are grown in culture they are available the year round, in spring and autumn in larger quantities. Surpluses are dried and kept for the winter months.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Like oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms are primary decomposers. This means that the mycelium it forms decomposes substances from the material on which is grows and feeds on them. Shiitake grow preferably on the wood of dead deciduous trees and are specialized exclusively in their decomposition.

Shiitake means "mushroom that grows on the tree" and stems from the Japanese words shii and take, meaning tree and mushroom. Earlier, these mushrooms really did grow only on trees, and they still do today in their natural environment. The increasing demand called for new developments; in some places, artificial substrates that are spread on wood chips from deciduous trees serve the mushrooms as a matrix.

Within a few months they begin to grow. They attain a diameter of up to 10 cm, are brown to brown-red, and have whitish to brownish scales on the dry, cracked surface of the cap. Like the scales, the flesh of the shiitake is white or brownish, and it has a firm, succulent, but not watery consistency.

The shiitake mushroom is exceptionally aromatic, and of all the cultivated mushrooms it comes closest to the forest mushrooms in flavour and quality. In appearance it resembles the button mushroom.

Because the yields are comparatively small, shiitake mushrooms are rather expensive.


100 g contain:

Shiitake, fresh
Energy (kcal)
Water (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
< 1
Carbohydrates (g)
Fibre (g)
Vitamin B1 (μg)
Vitamin B2 (μg)
Niacin (NE) (mg)
Pantothenic acid (mg)
Biotin (μg)
Vitamin D (μg)
Potassium (mg)
Phosphorous (mg)
Iron (mg)
< 1

Harmful substances

The naturally occurring polysaccharide lentinan causes a shiitake or flagellate dermatitis in some people, i.e., a striated reddening of the skin that is due to an intolerance to this substance. To date, only very few cases of such a dermatitis have been seen in Germany.

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Shiitake keep better than button mushrooms and remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Presumed effect on health

As early as in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), numerous healing effects were attributed to the shiitake mushroom. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used to treat colds, weakness, stomach disorders and allergies. A blood cholesterol-lowering effect has meanwhile been established.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Prior to use, clean the mushroom with a paper towel and, if need be, cut off the stem; it is not necessary to peel off the skin.

Many Asian dishes are impossible to imagine without shiitake mushrooms. These are used steamed and fried, and they are suitable for broiling and deep-frying. They can be added to rice dishes and served with meat and can be used to garnish sauces and soups.

For soups and sauces it is recommended to use dried shiitake because, in contrast to other mushrooms, the aroma of the shiitake is not reduced by drying, but rather enhanced. A flour made of the dried mushrooms can be used to season foods and gives them a typically strong, spicy flavour.





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