Shiitake mushrooms have a rich, earthy flavor and a distinctive taste best described as meaty. These mushrooms have large caps measuring 1 – 5 inches, and vary in color from light to dark brown. They exhibit a lacey white trim around the edges of the mushroom cap quite often.
Shiitake mushroom’s, scientific name Lentinula edodes is native to the mountain regions of Japan, Korea and China, where they grow on fallen logs. People throughout East Asia, collect wild shiitakes from fallen logs for both food and medicine. People have been cultivating Shiitake mushrooms in China for 1,000 to 1,200 years.
Cultivation methods later spread to Japan, with samurai warriors controlling most of the production for the aristocracy. The name was derived from the Japanese word shii for the hardwood tree species that the mushrooms commonly grew on, and take the Japanese word for mushroom.
Shiitake mushrooms are the third most cultivated mushroom, worldwide. Their popularity is continually growing in the United States, and more producers are raising the “Prima Donna” of mushroom. Raising Shiitake mushrooms is more labor intensive and takes between two to five months of incubating before they are ready to begin fruiting. China still produces about 80 to 90 percent of the shiitake, worldwide.