Shiitake are a very well known edible mushroom and the fourth most popular across the world. Used in Aisan cooking for centuries, shiitake have a meaty flavour and a rich earthy flavour when cooked. Their flavour is stronger than white button or portabello and tends to carry throughout dishes. They are recognised by umbrella shaped spongy brown caps, which often curl under slightly.
Mushrooms are not grown like any other produce, because they are not plants. Shiitake are a fungi, and to reproduce they create spores, which germinate to form mycelium. Similar to the seeds or cuttings used for most produce in New Zealand, we purchase this mycelium from overseas. We tested various strains of shiitake to find the ones which were superior in quality and flavour and selected these from China, to grow on our farm. This mycelium is combined into a sawdust mix, which is pressed together and kept under high hygiene conditions until ready for transport. We finish the mycelium maturation process, in our Canterbury growing rooms, to strict New Zealand safety standards. We nurture with water, temperature and humidity and soon the magic begins and tiny mushrooms start to appear (pinning). We continue to grow the shiitake until they mature, then we hand-pick and pack fresh for delivery.
Shiitake mushrooms should be cooked, but can be used just like any other mushroom type in soups, pasta, stir-fry or kiwi favourites such as pies or mushrooms on toast. However, as they have a slightly stronger flavour, you may not need as many and shiitake are often used in combination with other mushrooms in soups or casseroles.
Like all our mushrooms, Shiitake need to breathe to maintain their quality until you are ready to use them. We recommend keeping them in their breathable punnet or alternatively use a paper bag or a damp tea-towel.
Meadow Mushrooms Shiitake are now available at top retailers around the country including Countdown and New World, if you can't find them, let us know and we'll help you find a store nearby.