Cathy’s Lab: Shiitake the other white meat.

Cathy’s Lab: Shiitake the other white meat.

Cathy’s Lab – a slice of science pie for the mushroom minded

Cathy Scott is Chief Science Officer at Everything Mushrooms; she handles all the mycelium! Cathy is also a tremendous cook and dedicated fungal fanatic. This little slice of our web space is dedicated to Cathy’s experiments, recipies, and mushroom musings. Be sure to check this page regularly for updates on some of the exciting things happening “behind the scenes” in Cathy’s Lab at Everything Mushrooms.

Have you ever
noticed how mushroom gravy can actually make a meat dish taste more
meaty? The meaty flavor of shiitake comes from large amount of
glutamic acid, which is a key flavor in meat. The glutamate in
shiitake is also a natural version of the flavor enhancer monosodium
glutamate. The natural glutamate in shiitake can boost the flavor in
a dish without added sodium. Glutamate imparts the 5
taste, known in Japan as umami, a hard to describe subtle savory
essence. Nonetheless it can add an important layer of flavor to your
cuisine creations. Like meat, shiitake can complement a range of
dishes from light salads to heavy gravies, tomato or dairy based
sauces. They also have a dense flesh and intense flavor so they can
stand up to long cooking in pasta, soups or stews. Of course they are
also a natural ingredient to use in stir-fries and other Asian

In addition to
being tasty, shiitake are an ideal health and weight loss food. The
protein and soluble dietary fiber content will keep you feeling
satisfied. They also contain only small amounts of fats and no sugars
or cholesterol, which means shiitake will not increase your body’s
production of HDL/LDL cholesterol or insulin. Shiitakes are one of
the few natural vegetable sources rich in vitamin D, additionally
they contain vitamins B, C and niacin. They also contain many
minerals including potassium, copper, selenium, and all of the
essential amino acids.

Bioactive compounds found in edible mushrooms are stimulating a great
deal scientific research for use as medicinal extracts and functional
foods. Fungi have been well known and employed for their antibiotic
properties for decades. Recent research shows that shiitake exhibit
antibacterial and anti-viral effects (Vetvicka
2011). In addition studies have shown that shiitake can enhance the
immune system and have demonstrated efficacy in treating diseases as
diverse as AIDS (Bisen, Baghel et al. 2010) and
cancer (Shin,
Kim et al. 2010; Chen, Zhang et al. 2013; Ina, Kataoka et al. 2013).
Shiitake compounds identified that inhibit blood aggregation and
reduce cholesterol levels, may someday be useful in treating heart
disease (Rop,
Mlcek et al. 2009). As if this isn’t amazing
enough, shiitakes have been shown to have anti-inflammatory
properties (Meenakshi
2008). Inflammation is the root cause of many
of our aches and pains, ranging from sore throats to pulled muscles.
It is also a well-known contributing factor to many age-related
chronic diseases. One of the safest possible strategies to suppress
long and short-term inflammation is the employment of foods with
anti-inflammatory properties like shiitake. Here in the West we are
just beginning to understand the power of mushrooms, unlike Asians
who have used shiitake as medicinal treatments for thousands of

Shiitakes are
one of the easiest mushrooms to grow, increasingly allowing small
farms to provide fresh shiitake mushrooms to local markets. Fresh
mushrooms will shrink during cooking so buy a little extra. You can
also easily
grow your own shiitakes outside on logs, or indoors on kits we sell at Everything Mushrooms. Store fresh mushrooms in the
refrigerator in a paper bag, but never use plastic.Shiitakes grow on wood substrates that aren’t very tasty so
be sure to remove all of the stems and brush off any sawdust, there
is no need to soak.


If you can’t find fresh,
dried shiitake are delicious also.
Reconstitute dried mushrooms in hot water before processing and
cooking as you would fresh mushrooms. As an extra bonus you get
mushroom broth, which is a great addition to soup or stock.

Shiitakes can be sautéed, marinated, grilled,
battered and deep-fried, broiled, roasted, boiled, simmered, a
flavor-filler for meatballs, added to sauces, gravies and stuffing or
stuffed themselves. For the non-mushroom lovers try
marinating them in soy sauce and red wine and roasting, or processing into a shiitake paté. You can fool people into thinking they are
meat. The next time you are planning a vegetarian meal I hope you try
using shiitake mushrooms as a “protein substitute” for meat!

**Shiitake mushrooms should be cooked before eating; some individuals have rare but serious allergic reaction to uncooked shiitake mushrooms.**

Bisen, P. S., R. K.
Baghel, et al. (2010). “Lentinus edodes: A Macrofungus with
Pharmacological Activities.”
Current Medicinal Chemistry
17(22): 2419-2430.

Chen, J. Z., X. D.
Zhang, et al. (2013). “The Application of Fungal Beta-glucans
for the Treatment of Colon Cancer.”
Anticancer Agents Med
13(5): 725-730.

Ina, K., T. Kataoka,
et al. (2013). “The Use of Lentinan for Treating Gastric
Anticancer Agents Med Chem 13(5):

Meenakshi, M.
(2008). “Bioactivities of some medicinal mushrooms: a modern
Journal of Mycopathological Research 46(1):

Rop, O., J. Mlcek,
et al. (2009). “Beta-glucans in higher fungi and their health
Nutrition Reviews 67(11): 624-631.

Shin, A., J. Kim, et
al. (2010). “Dietary Mushroom Intake and the Risk of Breast
Cancer Based on Hormone Receptor Status.”
Nutrition and
Cancer-an International Journal
62(4): 476-483.

Vetvicka, V. (2011).
“Glucan-immunostimulant, adjuvant, potential drug.”
journal of clinical oncology
2(2): 115-119.

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