Lentinula edodes (Berk.) Pegler (1976)
Lentinus edodes (Berk.) Singer (1941)
Cortinellus edodes (Berk.) S.Ito & S.Imai (1938)
Lentinus shiitake (J.Schröt.) Singer (1936)
Tricholoma shiitake (J.Schröt.) Lloyd (1918)
Lentinus mellianus Lohwag (1918)
Cortinellus shiitake (J.Schröt.) Henn. (1899)
Mastoleucomyces edodes (Berk.) Kuntze (1891)
Lentinus tonkinensis Pat. (1890)
Lepiota shiitake (J.Schröt.) Nobuj. Tanaka (1889)
Armillaria edodes (Berk.) Sacc. (1887)
Collybia shiitake J.Schröt. (1886)
Agaricus edodes Berk. (1878)
Shiitakes are native to eastern Asia, especially Japan, China, and Korea. They are beginning to naturalize in the western United States, and have been observed very rarely in the northeastern US. The cultivated ones shown here are courtesy of the Fat Moon Farm in Westford, Massachusetts. The Japanese name shiitake (椎茸) is composed of shii (椎 shī, “Castanopsis”), for the tree Castanopsis cuspidata whose logs on which it is often cultivated, and take (茸, “mushroom”).
Identification: Shittakes have dark brown or black caps at first, but they lighten with age. The cap often has white specs. Gills under the cap do not attach to the stipe (stem). The stem is fibrous, bruising a brownish color. The spore print is white. In addition to shii (a member of the birch family), shiitake may appear on oak, sweetgum, poplar, cottonwood, eucalyptus, alder, ironwood, beech, birch, willow, and other hardwoods.
Edibility: Shiitakes are cultivated extensively in Asia and the Americas, second only to button mushrooms. They are a highly nutritious mushroom rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. They can be sautéed in oil or butter, stir-fried, baked, grilled, or marinated. They are added to stews, soups, or casseroles. Precook shiitakes before adding them to salads, vegetable dishes, or omelettes. The stems are fibrous and should be removed. When these mushrooms are exposed to sunlight during growth, they produce a lot of vitamin D, a bonus.
Medical: Shiitakes contain lentinan, which is very promising in reducing tumors in some types of cancer by stimulating the immune system, though more studies are needed to work out more of the details. They have a host of other potential health benefits, though once again, more research is needed. Warning: a few people are allergic to the raw mushrooms, so it is best to handle them sparingly at first until you are sure you are not among them.
Lentinula edodes on www.mushroom-appreciation.com
Lentinula edodes on medicalmushrooms.net
Lentinula edodes on Wikipedia
Lentinula edodes on davidmoore.org.uk
Lentinula edodes description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.