When the word fungus crosses our mind, a common notion comes along that all fungi cause infections, allergies and are detrimental to health. Well, not really. Not all the fungus that you eat are bad and in fact, one fleshy, nonflowering, fruiting body we eat all the time is pretty much a fungus. Part of ancient cuisine for the longest time, we know them as mushrooms. Laden with therapeutic properties, full of nutrition, and flavoursome, mushrooms have been in global culinary culture for thousands of years. Greeks believed that mushrooms were served to provide strength to soldiers during battles. Romans perceived them as the food of the gods and Chinese culture treasured mushrooms as an elixir of life.
One such variety of this so-called plant which is technically a fungus is the shiitake. Typically eaten as a vegetable, shiitake protrudes on decaying hardwood trees. Soft, succulent, and native to Japan where 80 percent of shiitake is produced, this dark brown wild variety is now cultivated around the globe. Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium besides being cholesterol-free. They also provide essential nutrients, including potassium, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin D, selenium, protein, and fibre. Replete with immune-boosting benefits, shiitake has been beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, hypertension, and stroke. They are eaten fresh, dried, and used in various dietary supplements.
Types Of Edible Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are indeed one of the most prominent mushrooms worldwide, here are some other varieties that are no less sumptuous and nutrient-dense:
- Button Mushrooms
- Crimini Mushrooms
- Maitake Mushroom
- Morel Mushroom
- Porcini Mushrooms
- Lobster Mushrooms
- Chanterelle Mushrooms
- Beech Mushrooms
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Oyster Mushrooms
- Portabello Mushrooms
Also Read: Oyster Mushrooms: Health Benefits, Nutrition, Uses, And Side Effects
Health Benefits Of Shiitake Mushrooms
Important sources of bioactive compounds, shiitake extracts are used as medicine as they reduce the likelihood of cancer due to antitumoral attributes. Other incredible health benefits of shiitake are :
Shiitake contains three potent compounds that help lower cholesterol. Eritadenine- this inhibits an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol, sterols- it blocks cholesterol absorption in your gut, and beta-glucans- a fibrous compound that can lower cholesterol.
Shiitakes possess potential anticancer activity compounds called polysaccharides that help fight cancerous tumours. It is also extremely rich in lentinan which inhibits the growth of leukemia cells.
Vitamin D is considered crucial to bone health. Mushrooms are the best plant source of Vitamin D. For strong bones, and to prevent bone loss and reduce chances of osteoporosis, shiitake mushrooms can be of great help.
In case you are wondering what can be made with these mushy mushrooms, we bring two mouth-watering options that you must add to your main course or side dish menu.
Shitake Mushrooms In Green Beans
6 tbsp butter
250 grams of fresh shiitake mushrooms
A handful of chopped onion shallots
5 minced garlic cloves
200 grams of finely chopped green beans
3 chopped tomatoes
Salt and black pepper to taste
A pinch of red chili powder
Melt butter in a pan, add shiitake mushrooms and cook until tender
Transfer mushrooms to another bowl
Melt remaining butter and add shallots and garlic, stir for 2 minutes
Add tomatoes and cook well
Add green beans and simmer until liquid evaporates and beans are tender
Add shiitake mushrooms, salt, pepper, and chili powder
Shitake is loaded with fibre and all essential nutrients. Green beans, another ingredient of this delicacy is high in Vitamin K and proteins.
Quick Tip: When cooking fresh shiitake, remove the stems as they may not melt instantly, but do not discard them. It can be used to make sumptuous nutrition-laden soup.
Crispy Sesame Shiitake
250 grams dried shiitakes
¼ cup corn starch
4 tbsp cooking oil
For Sesame Sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar/normal vinegar
4 cloves minced garlic
1-inch piece of minced ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch
Soak shiitake in boiling water until tender
Drain and squeeze out the excess water from mushrooms
Slice them into half-inch slices
Toss them in the corn starch so they get evenly coated
Heat oil and fry shiitake until they are golden-brown and no corn starch remains uncooked
In another bowl, mix all ingredients of the sauce
Cook the sauce in sesame oil until it begins to thicken
Now add fried shiitakes and mix up well to coat
Garnish with sesame seeds and serve hot
Shitake is loaded with proteins, and potassium besides fibre. Sesame seeds provide a whopping amount of calcium. Crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside, this quick recipe be relished by vegans too.
Well, the bottom line is no matter which ever way you decide to eat your mushrooms, this pulpy tree-like veggie is fantastic for your health, delectable to your taste buds and of course, a boon to vegetarians!