Mushroom Powder, Shitake (Lentinus edodes)


This mushroom is the second most widely cultivated mushroom in the world. … It has been estimated that the origin of shiitake mushrooms can be traced to the cretaceous period, over one hundred million years ago. It is found growing wild in the mountainous regions of China, Japan, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

The shiitake is vastly popular as a dietary choice in China and Japan. In Japan, the creme de la crème of shiitake crop is called donko. In China, it is known as shanku and dongo. The Chinese were the first to use the shiitake mushroom for nutrition and healing. According to a Chinese legend, around 5000 years ago, a deity, Shennong bestowed the world with natural treasures including medicinal mushrooms. This laid the foundation for the conceptual framework of Chinese medicine based on super foods and acupuncture. Tapestries and Chinese manuscripts depict deities holding several species of medicinal mushroom, including the shiitake, which finds applications in Chinese culture as an aphrodisiac and a promoter of youthfulness and virility.

After the Chinese discovered the shiitake wild while scourging the extensive forest cover of the Chinese subcontinent, the Japanese developed a convenient method to cultivate mushrooms. Called the soak and strike method, it involved inoculating a tree log with collected spores, and leaving them out in a moist atmosphere. The logs are cut from a tree and placed horizontally, followed by an injection of spores. In fact, this method was synonymous with a development of a male child into a man. Logs inoculated during a child s birth would mature with him till he attains manhood, and inherit the fortune in his backyard. Thus, the shiitake was a prized possession, and people went to the extent of robbing them from one another, leading to what was known as a shiitake war .