Shiitake mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years. The smoky flavored fungus, most commonly found as an ingredient in Miso soup, can now be found in stores across the U.S. If you are really a Shiitake mushroom lover, you can even grow them in your own home!
Shiitake mushrooms are low in fat and high in protein, vitamins and minerals. They contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which is known for its ability to power up the immune system. It helps strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection and diseases. Some experts say lentinan is more effective at fighting influenza and other viruses than prescription drugs. In some countries it is even used as an intravenous anti-cancer agent.
How can you tell if Shiitake mushrooms are fresh? Look for firm, plump and clean mushrooms. If they are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots they should be avoided. For proper storage keep them loose in the refrigerator or in a closed paper bag. They will remain fresh for about a week. Dried mushrooms can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, or in the freezer for six months to one year.
As shiitake mushrooms are extremely porous, the best way to clean them is to wipe them with a damp paper towel and avoid using too much water. However if they are dried they must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using.