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About the Shiitake

  • Shiitake's pronunciation is shee-TAH-kay, range in colour from amber to ‘paper bag-brown’.

  • The 'take' in Shiitake means mushrooms in Japanese, so there's no need to add the word mushroom after it. The Shii by the way is a Japanese name for a type of tree. 

  • In Japan, The highest grade is referred to as Donko. This often has cracks across the cap, making it look like a flower.
  • In the wild, they grow on deciduous hardwood trees, not in soil. We replicate this environment by growing them on organic pine sawdust with soy as nutrition.

  • Scientifically classified as Lentinula edodes. We also grow a native NZ Shiitake, botanic name Lentinula novae-zelandiae

  • These mushrooms are native to East Asia, specifically China and Japan. They have been growing wild since prehistoric times, and have been cultivated since 1100 AD, during the Song Dynasty.

  • In China, they are called Shaingug or Hsiang ku, which means ‘fragrant mushroom’.

What does Shiitake taste like? How do I cook them?

  • Shiitake is what the word Umami is all about.  This gives them its distinctive strong earthy flavours and aroma. 
  • When cooked, they have a velvety, meaty texture, but the stems can be chewy. They are usually removed, and if chopped finely, make great stock for soups etc.
  • The Umami flavour comes from their high concentration of the amino acid glutamate.

How to cook

  • Shiitake should be cooked prior to eating. This variety only needs 10-12 minutes of cooking time. When cooked, they release a garlic-pine aroma and have a rich, earthy, umami flavour (savoury or meaty).

  • Although they are a cultivated variety, their flavour and texture lend well to recipes calling for ‘wild mushrooms’.

  • You can pair them with most meats (steak, chicken, duck, pork), fish (salmon, cod), Asian greens, eggplant, rice, noodles, garlic, soy, and chilli. They can be sautéed, roasted, skewered, and grilled …or boiled by adding to a soup or hot pot.

Does Shiitake have health & nutrition benefits?

  • In addition to their culinary uses, Shiitake mushrooms have long been used for medicinal purposes

  • For Vegans, it is one of the only non-animal sources of Vitamin B
  • They are rich in other vitamins and minerals with potently high B complex, and vitamin D

  • They are a source of the compound Lentinan, which is being evaluated as an anti-cancer drug

Are Shiitake mushrooms easy to grow?

We would describe the Shiitake as more technical to grow, than oyster mushrooms. Because of this, we recommend starting with the Oysters first. 

There are several methods you can use. 

  1. The DIY approach involves growing shiitake mushrooms on logs. This involves purchasing inoculated dowels, drilling holes in the log, placing the dowel into the hole. Ideally, the log needs to be from a hardwood tree, like oak or a Popular tree. For the average person, this method can be hit or miss and may take several years for it to bear fruit.
  2. The Best method would be to purchase an already inoculated sawdust fruiting block.  The less-dense nature of the block compared to the wood, means the mycelium can colonise it more quickly, meaning it will take less time to start fruiting.

In both methods, you will also need to initiate the mushroom fruiting by simulating its natural growing conditions. We call this technique "creating the perfect autumn storm". Basically, it's a way of communicating with it, to let it know winter is coming and they better hurry up and bear children!

  1. Slap the block fairly hard. This simulates the tree or a branch falling in a storm.
  2. Soak it in water: sitting on the forest floor in a massive puddle
  3. Put it in the fridge: the late autumn storm is cold!
  4. Bring it back into the warmth: The storm has passed, and there are still a few warm days before winter, so needs to grow mushrooms fast!

See our in-depth guide: How to grow shiitake mushrooms.

How our blocks are made? 

  • We make our Shiitake blocks from organic pine sawdust and some soy as nutrition
  • Everything is 100% kiwi made, on our little permaculture farm just south of Levin
  • No chemicals or pesticides are used in the production
  • We use highly sustainable production techniques with no environmental impact
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