If you’re new to the mushroom world or just wanting to learn about these incredible, delicate, and intriguing mushrooms known commonly as beech mushrooms, you’ve come to the right place for a complete guide. We’ll discuss the uses, where they grow, the flavor, texture, and more on these specialty fungi, along with where to find them and what they actually are. Let’s dive in.
Beech Mushrooms Classification
Beech mushroom is a common name for the mushroom known as Hypsizygus tessellatus. This mushroom is also known as hon shimeji, white beech mushrooms, brown beech mushrooms, Chiodini, Pioppini, Alba Clamshell, and Clamshell, or Bunapi-shimeji. True Hon shimeji mushrooms come from the species Lyophyllum shimeji.
Where Do Beech Mushrooms Grow?
These mushrooms are a highly popular variety of mushroom found in China and Japan, where they grow wild among decaying beech trees (giving them their name in English). They often grow wild in the nooks and cracks of other trees like elms and cottonwoods, as well. They don’t grow natively in the USA, though they have been cultivated in certain temperate regions.
Are Beech Mushrooms Safe to Eat?
DISCLAIMER: Always check with a mycologist to confirm your finds and before ingesting.
These mushrooms are indeed safe to eat. In fact, they are among some of the most popular edible fungus in certain parts of Asia, Europe, and Australia, where they are cultivated (along with the USA). These flavorful mushrooms are used in many dishes of varying types and origins.
Never eat wild mushrooms, no matter where you live, unless you’re working with a professional who can clearly identify the safety of the given fungi.
Beech Mushroom Flavor
You may eat these mushrooms raw or cooked, though most folks lean towards the cooked option, as the uncooked fungi tends to have a bitter taste. Eating mushrooms raw can cause gastric distress in some people. It’s worth noting that the nutritional components of the mushroom are also nearly nil when raw, as human bodies cannot absorb the nutrients therein as is.
When you cook them, these mushrooms are said to be savory, nutty, or sweet, depending on how they are cooked. Some feel the flavor is an “umami taste” and recommend using the mushroom in these types of dishes. They have a crunchy texture, as well, adding some unique texture to dishes.
Benefits of Beech Mushrooms
Beech mushrooms have many nutritional benefits, when cooked. Beech mushrooms contain antioxidants, which help the body fight free radicals which are known to cause chronic health conditions and cancers. They are rich in B Vitamins, which provide energy, healthy red blood cell formation, regulation of hormones, and proper functioning of the skin, the nervous, and the digestive systems.
These mushrooms are also high in dietary fiber and have high levels of Beta-Glucan, which helps in the regulation of blood sugar. They also contain copper, which help the nerves and bones and potassium with helps the muscles and specifically the heart and kidneys. And, interestingly, these fungi also contain high levels of Vitamin D, when exposed to sunlight.
How To Use Beech Mushrooms?
Because of their Asian origins, beech mushrooms are most commonly associated with Asian cuisine. However, they are popular in a wide range of other dishes as well.
Often these mushrooms are used in stir fry, braised with shallots and savory herbs and olive oil, paired with tomatoes and red bell peppers and citrus fruit for tempura, served in stews and soups, and used as cooked toppings for pizza and salads.
The mushrooms are often served with soba noodles, mixed with grains such as farro and risotto, pastas, and ramen.
What is the Life Cycle of the Beech Mushroom?
These mushrooms are more commercially cultivated than personally cultivated, though they are done so in a wide variety of manners. Many commercial operations grow the mushrooms in sawdust, while others use specially formulated growing media.
The mushroom begins as a spore that spawns between 70- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit, and forms into primordia and then a fruiting body around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The mushroom needs high humidity, around 90 to 100%. It typically takes 30 to 45 days for spawn to grow, with pinning and fruiting about 12 to 22 days later.
How Much Do Beech Mushrooms Cost?
These mushrooms are far less commonplace than button mushrooms and even portobello mushrooms. Because of this, they are considered specialty items and will run you more than other mushrooms. People often use them for specialty meals at home only, rather than every day meals, unless you grow them yourself.
Where Can I Purchase Beech Mushrooms?
You may purchase both pre-grown beech mushrooms for use and beech mushroom spores for home growing at a variety of locations.
Where to Buy Pre-Grown Mushrooms
To purchase the pre-grown mushrooms for cooking with, you’ll most commonly find them at health food stores, specialty markets, farmer’s markets, and Asian grocery stores. You may find them online, as well, if you can find some Asian growers or groceries that focus on specialty items.
They’re typically sold in plastic packaging which make them hard to inspect in person, but when you pick up the packages, you can inspect via touch. If they seem moist, slimy, or droopy, skip them. They should be firm and dry only.
Where to Buy These Mushrooms to Grow
You can purchase beech mushroom cultures and spores online or at specialty mushroom grower shops, but always make sure to buy from a reputable vendor.
How to Identify Beech Mushrooms
There are two colors that beech mushrooms come in. They should either be an ivory white with smooth, petite globe-shaped caps, or soft brown with those same globular caps. The mushrooms grow in clusters and tend to be delicate, so they will be plucked in clusters and sold as bouquets. The base of the mushroom is inedible, so be sure to trim this off before preparing. The stems on the mushrooms are long and white, whichever color the mushroom caps are.
Can You Freeze Beech Mushrooms?
If you wind up with too many mushrooms or don’t get to use them when intended, you can preserve them for later use. Freeze raw mushrooms after brushing any loose dirt from the fungi. You may also blanche the mushrooms (this is briefly scalding the mushrooms in boiling water and removing a few moments later before they fully cook) or sauté them before freezing. Blanching and freezing immediately may have to preserve the nutritional value of the mushrooms even more, as well preserve the texture and flavor.
Beech Mushroom Trivia
- Beech mushrooms, whether white or brown, are native to East Asia.
- Wild Hon Shimeji or beech mushrooms, grow on hardwood trees such as beech trees, elms, and cottonwoods. This is where they get their nickname of “beech mushrooms.”
- Typically, these mushrooms are cultivated in compost made of sawdust, grains, and organic agricultural waste.
- Mushrooms are grown in dark environments that help the fungi develop nutritional value while maintaining uniformity.
- The first cultivated white beech mushroom was actually a hybrid of two different brown beech mushroom strains, creating the unique white caps.
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