Enoki Mushrooms: A Complete Guide

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: December 21, 2022
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Enoki mushrooms are one of the most popular culinary mushrooms out there. They are the fifth most produced mushroom in the world, have a strong connection to Japanese cuisine, and are often regarded as unique due to their long and crisp stems which set them apart from many other types of edible mushrooms such as the cremini mushroom, which tend to have short, soft stems.

In this guide, we’ll explore all of the unique attributes of enoki mushrooms, from their classification to where they grow to how they are used.

Information About Enoki Mushrooms

Enoki Mushrooms
ClassificationFlammulina filiformis
DescriptionA unique species of edible mushroom with small white caps and long, crunchy, noodle-like stems.
UsesCulinary, medicinal
How to GrowMix a pasteurized substrate with your enoki mushroom spores and find a cool, dark place to inoculate the mixture to start fruiting.
How to ForageWhen found, cut this clustered mushroom at the roots to keep the cluster together, but be sure to remove the roots before cooking.
Key Identifying FeaturesThis mushroom has very long stems when compared to other mushrooms. They also grow in tight clusters and have a bright white or cream-colored hue, making them easy to identify.
OriginJapan, Korea, China

Enoki Mushrooms: Classification

Enoki mushrooms are classified as flammulina filiformis. As a member of the flammulina genus of fungi, enoki mushrooms are closely related to nine other species. Flammulina filiformis is often mistaken for flammulina velutipes or the velvet shank, but recent DNA testing has found that these two species are distinct from each other. Flammulina filiformis is the species of enoki mushroom used most often in cooking.

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Enoki mushrooms have a number of different names. They are known as “enokitake” in Japanese, as well as the golden needle mushroom, winter mushroom, and lily mushroom.

Enoki Mushrooms: Key Identifying Features and Appearance

Enoki mushrooms are tall, white, gilled (or agaric) mushrooms with slender stems and smaller, more rounded caps. The enokitake mushroom’s individual fruit bodies can reach a height of two inches. Convex initially, the cap expands to a maximum width of two inches before becoming flat. The smooth, damp-viscid, ochraceous yellow to golden-brown surface of the cap is smooth in appearance.

The gills of the enoki mushroom range from cream to yellowish-white. The smooth, light yellow to dark brown stem has no ring and is golden-brown to dark brown at the base.

It’s important to note that wild and cultivated enokitake mushrooms look very different from one another. The lack of light exposure causes cultivars to have white or pallid fruit bodies with long stipes and short caps.

Enoki Mushrooms: Where They Grow

On the dead wood of broad-leaved trees, especially white birch, Chinese hackberry, and mulberry, the enokitake mushroom thrives. In Japan, Korea, and China, it naturally grows. Since 800 AD, this mushroom has been grown in China. In the United States, you’ll have a better chance of finding this mushroom in the wild towards the end of winter. If you happen to live in an area at a high elevation, you might be able to find wild enoki in the summertime.

Normally growing in darkness, enokitake mushrooms have pale fruit bodies with long, thin stipes and underdeveloped caps when they are ready to be picked. Light exposure produces fruitbodies with shorter stripes that are more recognizable.

Fresh enoki mushrooms on top of a bowl of tofu and green onion soup

Fresh enoki mushrooms (pictured) are primarily used to add crunchy texture to soups and stews.

©iStock.com/ma-no

Enoki Mushrooms: How They Are Used

Enoki mushrooms are primarily used in cuisine and cooking. Enoki mushrooms are adaptable and have a shelf life of up to one week when kept in the refrigerator in a paper bag.

When utilizing enoki mushrooms in recipes, there are a few things to keep in mind. Trim and thoroughly wash the mushrooms beforehand. Trim the stems of your mushrooms and give them a good wash before cooking. To make a delicious and earthy side dish for rice bowls, stews, or pasta, enoki mushrooms can be cooked with soy sauce and any sweet rice wine of your choice. These tasty mushrooms may be kept for about two weeks in the refrigerator when kept in an airtight container. We recommend dehydrating them to extend their shelf life

Sautee the mushrooms for a few seconds to soften them if you like soft instead of crispy mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms will soften in your skillet after about a minute with only a little salt and sesame oil. Then you can include them in a variety of rice and protein meals.

Enoki mushrooms should only be added to a warm meal without cooking if you wish to utilize them in the traditional manner. Enoki mushrooms are most frequently used to add some crunchy texture and earthy flavor to hot pot soups and fresh salads. They go well with ramen bowls and cold soba noodles as well.

Enoki mushrooms also have some medicinal properties. Bioactive polysaccharides, FVE protein, and ribosome-inactivating protein are present in enoki mushrooms and can all help to control the immune system. They also have qualities that fight cancer, fight allergies, fight germs, fight viruses, fight inflammation, and increase immunity.

Enoki Mushrooms: Where They Are Purchased

Enokitake mushrooms that have been grown commercially are available fresh and canned. They can be found year-round in Southeast Asian grocery stores. In North America, you might be hard-pressed to find these mushrooms sold fresh, though you might get lucky if you check your local international grocer. If you’re fine with the dried and preserved version of these mushrooms, they can be found in specialty stores online.

Interesting Facts About the Enoki Mushroom

The look of the mushroom in the wild and under cultivation differs significantly. Wild mushrooms often have a dark brown hue. Mushrooms that have been grown inside have been exposed to light and developed a white tint. While wild mushrooms create considerably shorter and thicker stems, cultivated mushrooms are grown in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere to encourage the growth of long thin stems.

Dietary fiber, niacin, calcium, potassium, selenium, copper, phosphorus, and iron are all present in enoki mushrooms. They are also well recognized for having anti-inflammatory effects and doing wonders to strengthen the immune system.

Some test-tube studies indicate that enoki mushrooms may have potent cancer-fighting abilities, but further human trials are required. One test-tube study, for example, suggested that enoki mushrooms in an extract form could potentially have prevented the development of dangerous liver cancer cells.

How to Grow Enoki Mushrooms

Enoki mushrooms are often grown on an old hardwood sawdust medium that has been packed inside tiny, eight-inch-tall glass or plastic bottles. After being pasteurized to eliminate dangerous germs, the medium is then injected with enoki spawn.

It takes the spawn-run between 12 and 30 days. This is how long the mycelium needs to develop from the spawn and cover the entire growth media. The spawn-run habitat requires more CO2 and has a high humidity level of roughly 90%. It should be between 72 and 77 degrees F.

Pinning is caused by lowering the temperature to around 55 degrees F and reducing the CO2 by roughly 80% once the mycelium has infiltrated the growth media. The mycelium is shocked into producing small fruiting bodies, which will ultimately develop into the full mushroom, by the sudden shift in the environment. Enokis can pin without being exposed to light.

After that, the enoki may be harvested. Several crops can be grown in a bottle over the course of two to three weeks before the used growth media is recycled.

Enoki mushrooms are special and delicious little fungi, and they can add some much-needed texture to any dish. If you live in an area where you can forage for these mushrooms, they can be hard to miss, making them perfect for beginners. There’s certainly a lot to love about the enoki mushroom!

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Tamakhin Mykhailo/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are enoki mushrooms healthy?

Enoki mushrooms have several health benefits. They are rich in FVE protein and have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Are enoki mushrooms poisonous?

Enoki mushrooms have been linked in the past to listeria outbreaks. As such, be sure to cook your enoki mushrooms thoroughly before eating. Enoki mushrooms are not naturally poisonous.

What do enoki mushrooms taste like?

Enoki mushrooms are chewy with a fruity flavor with a touch of earthiness. The long stems of this mushroom also have a noodle-like quality.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. CDC Staff, Available here: https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/enoki-11-22/index.html
  2. Danilo Alfaro, Available here: https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-are-enoki-mushrooms-5197552
  3. Panmeng Wang, Xiao-Bin Liu, Yu Cheng Dai, and Egon Horak, Available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325826280_Phylogeny_and_species_delimitation_of_Flammulina_taxonomic_status_of_winter_mushroom_in_East_Asia_and_a_new_European_species_identified_using_an_integrated_approach