The Shiitake mushroom – (Lentinula Edodes)
The Shiitake mushroom is featured in most Chinese and Japanese menus and is probably the best-known of all exotics. Traditionally cultivated in Asia, the Shiitake mushroom is not only important for its culinary value, but also for its nutritional and health promoting properties. Members of Japanese courts centuries ago considered it an aphrodisiac and history also recalls that emperors in China ate it to delay ageing.
In the wild the Shiitake grows on hardwood trees such as beech and oak. In fact it derives its name from the “shii” tree – a type of Japanese oak. The ‘fruit’ body has a distinctive thick tan to brown cap with white ‘stitching’ around the side. It has a strong aroma with a distinctive garlic-like taste.
The Shiitake mushroom enhances the flavour of most foods. It is also tasty by itself, with its strong aroma and garlic-like taste. It accents vegetables, meats, seafood, poultry, and even other mushrooms.
The King Oyster mushroom – (Pleurotus Eryngii)
The King Oyster mushroom (also known as King Trumpet Mushroom, or, French Horn Mushroom) is native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa. It is also grown in parts of Asia and is particularly popular in Korea. Its species name is derived from the fact that it grows in association with the roots of Eryngium campestre or other Eryngium plants (‘Sea Holly’ or ‘Eryngo’).
The King Oyster mushroom has a thick, meaty white stem and a small tan cap. It has little flavour raw but develops typical mushroom ‘umami’ flavours during the cooking process. It is generally very firm in texture and is sometimes described as ‘phony abalone’.
While the stem of most other species of Oyster mushrooms tends to be tough and leathery and is often discarded, the stout and thick stem and the cap of the King Oyster are firm and pleasantly chewy. Because of the very firm and meaty texture of this mushroom, it requires more cooking time than other less ‘meaty’ mushrooms. Sauté or stir-fry until the edges turn become a crispy, golden brown. The King Oyster is ideal for use in Italian dishes, and can be grilled, barbequed or tempura deep-fried.
The Enoki mushroom – (Flammulina Velutipes)
The Enoki mushroom is historically found in temperate parts of the northern hemisphere and it is called ‘enoki’ because in Japan (its main area of cultivation and consumption), it grows on the enoki tree or otherwise knows as the Chinese hackberry. The Enoki mushroom has a deep, musty smell and the taste is sweet and nutty.
Enoki are usually eaten raw as an embellishment to salads. In Japan, Enoki are mostly used in soups because they make soups look so beautiful.
The Shimeji mushroom – (Hypsizygus Tessulatus)
The Shimeji mushroom (also known as Buna-Shimeji, Hon-Shimeji or Beech) grows naturally on various species of trees like beech, elm, cottonwood, willow, oak and other hardwoods in Europe, Asia and North America. The Shimeji is considered by the Japanese and Chinese to be a gourmet delicacy.
The texture, fragrance and taste of the Shimeji mushroom are totally delicious and can be prepared in many interesting ways. As they are so fresh and aromatic, they may be used as an antipasto. Fried or boiled and flavoured with olive oil, garlic and chilli, they also make an excellent sauce for pasta.
The Maitake Mushroom (Hen of the Woods)
The Japanese name “maitake” literally means “dancing mushroom.” According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of Maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate. It is also referred to by the English name “hen of the woods”, since its frond-like growths resemble the feathers of a fluffed chicken.
Maitake mushrooms have been used as medicine in Japan for centuries – they are traditionally believed to promote longevity.
Use Maitake wherever you would use any other mushroom, such as in omelettes, pastas, salads, stir-fries, and pizzas. Toss with olive oil and cook these large mushrooms on the grill.
The Porcini mushroom – (Boletus Edulis)
The Porcini mushroom, also known as Cep or Penny Bun, represents the wild mushroom par excellence. In the pre-inflationary days of Victorian Britain, it was given the nickname of ‘penny bun’ because of its well-baked colour and round shape. The Romans called it ‘suillus’ (Latin for ‘pig’), a name echoed in the contemporary Italian ‘porcino’. Some say this is because pigs like them, some that the young specimens look like fat little piglets. Because of the delicacy of its flavour and its versatility, this is the mushroom that the world’s leading chefs make most use of.
The Porcini mushroom shouldn’t be peeled or washed, just wipe off the dirt. Porcini mushrooms are good grilled, sliced and fried or used in stews.
For more photos of our mushrooms please visit the gallery page.