Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are a beautiful thing. They are a little more exciting than your regular button mushroom and so wonderfully delicious to eat. It’s thrilling to come into mushroom season, especially living in California. Here, just a slight change in temperature signifies the welcome arrival of new produce to the region and, of course, the welcome arrival of shiitake mushrooms.

An edible mushroom native to East Asia, the shiitake mushroom is named (in Japanese) for the shii tree – the tree that provides the dead logs in which shiitake mushrooms are typically cultivated. In English, the mysterious mushroom is sometimes referred to as the Chinese black mushroom or the black forest mushroom. Other Asian translations refer to the shiitake as the “fragrant” or “flower” mushroom, due to the flower-like cracking pattern on its upper surface.

Smoky and rich in taste, shiitake mushrooms are packed with antioxidants. Filled with iron, protein and vitamin C, shiitake mushrooms are perfect as a topping or side dish served with just about anything.

Happy Cooking! Mary