Shiitake are tan to brown, grow in clusters and are thin stemmed, with a large, slightly convex, spongy cap that ranges from two to four inches. Their stems are tough and are not usually eaten but can be used to flavor stock. Shiitake have an earthy or woodsy flavor, meaty and full-bodied with lots of umami, and the larger ones can taste creamy like custard. When buying fresh shiitake, look for firm, plump and clean mushrooms without any wrinkles or wet slimy spots.
Cultivating Shiitake Mushrooms
The shiitake is a decomposing fungus, which grows on dead hardwood trees or logs. Shiitakes don’t grow wild in the United States, but they are widely cultivated for the market and are usually grown on oak shavings and other woody organic material, formed into a log shape. Our shiitake mushrooms are cultivated with organic certification.
How to Clean Shiitake Mushrooms
Cleaning is minimal with shiitake; because they are nearly always cultivated, they don’t have dirt or detritus that wild mushrooms can bring from the forest. Simply wipe them clean with a damp cloth or dry mushroom brush. Remove the stems and cook separately, as they are tougher and take a longer time to cook than the caps. Or you may preserve the stems in the freezer, or dry them, and add to a stock or vegetable soup.
How to Store Shiitake Mushrooms
Store fresh shiitake mushrooms in the refrigerator in a loosely closed paper bag, which will absorb any moisture and also give the mushrooms air so they don’t rot. Shiitake will last about a week like this. The nice thing about shiitake is that they dry very well. If your fresh mushrooms go a little too long in the refrigerator, you have two options. Either soak them in water for a few minutes to rehydrate them, or let them dry out completely for use later. Shiitake hold onto their meaty flavor when dried (some maintain they pack even more umami), and are commonly available in dried form.
How to Cook Shiitake Mushrooms
Without a doubt, the shiitake mushroom is made for sautéing. The meaty cap should be sliced or chopped and tossed in a hot pan with olive oil, duck fat, or lard and sautéed for a few minutes. Add onions, garlic, or if they are in season, ramps, to make an earthy side dish. Peas and ginger also pair well with the full-bodied flavor of shiitake. Their meaty flavor holds up well with robust lamb in our easy stir-fry recipe. Shiitake mushrooms are traditionally used in miso soup and will impart their distinctive flavor to any soup.