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Shiitake is an edible mushroom that has been grown and used in Asian countries such as Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Korea for thousands of years; dating back to prehistoric times. It was highly regarded as a medicinal food to treat illnesses
... illnesses such as circulatory conditions and respiratory ailments.  The shiitake was also thought to prevent or postpone premature aging.

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Up until the 1980’s Shiitake was grown most predominately in Japan, however American farmers began cultivating it for personal use or to sell at farmers markets.  The wild form of shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan and China as well as other Asian countries, where they grow naturally on broadleaf trees.  Because of its highly regarded medicinal values, the shiitake mushroom is being cultivated all around the world.  Japan produces the largest quantities making up for 80% of the worlds production.

How to grow Shiitake

The shiitake can be grown outside or inside using logs that have kept its bark and retains it for several years.  Shiitake grown outside needs plenty of shade and protection from the wind but can be grown in large numbers with minimal space.  To grow shiitake mushrooms you must first buy what is called “mushroom plugs”, which are dowels of wood that contain the mushroom mycelium.  You place these plugs into drilled holes of a fresh cut log; the best logs to use are alder tree but other types of hardwood trees can be used as well; oak is said to work very well.  The drilled holes should be approximately four inches apart.  The plugs are put into the holes until they are flush with the log making sure not to damage the bark of the log.  Using melted cheese wax, seal the plugs using a brush to protect against insects or other types of fungi.  The logs are then placed in shaded areas; the logs should be stood up and not laid down.  The logs should be watered every two weeks, preferably with chlorine free water; rain or well water is best.  The mushrooms take from six months to a year to appear and one log will last up to four years.  

Nutrients Found in Shiitake

The shiitake mushroom is well known for its medicinal benefits and have been used for thousands of years to help boost the immune system and help fight off infections.  In an article published by Vitality Magazine stated that research has been shown that the shiitake has amino acids which are beneficial in lowering cholesterol and that by adding this food to a diet can possibly lower cholesterol by fifty percent. Shiitake mushrooms are low in cholesterol as well as sodium and saturated fat.  They are also a very high source of Vitamin B6 which helps to boost the immune system to fight off free radicals that damage cellular growth and are cancer causing agents.  

Healthy ways to Prepare Shiitake

The most popular ways the shiitake mushroom is cooked is in Asian cuisine served with noodles or in soup.  They are also used in stir-fry with vegetables and served over rice.  Because they have a great deal of protein the mushroom can replace the need for eating meat and can be served as a main dish at meal time.  

Health Benefits of Shiitake

In a study performed at Harvard Medical School it was shown that the intake of antioxidants, which are found in high percentages in shiitake mushrooms, can decrease the risk factors in getting Alzheimer’s disease. The vitamins and mineral present in the shiitake mushroom are significantly noted to help prevent free radicals from destroying healthy cells, thus building a strong immune system and warding off diseases such as cancer, as well as helps the body fight common infections such as colds and respiratory ailments. 

The shiitake mushroom not only adds significant taste to meals but is also one of the best foods to add to a diet for its many positive health benefits.