Enokitake (Japanese: えのき茸）, Chinese:金针菇, Pinyin:jīnzhēngū ) are long and thin white mushrooms used in the Cuisine of Japan and China. These mushrooms, known as Flammulina velutipes or Flammulina populicola to biologists, are also called golden needle mushroom, winter mushrooms, velvet foot, or velvet stem.
The mushroom is available fresh or canned, the fresh mushroom being preferable. Cut off the root system (approximately 4 cm) and wash briefly before use. They are traditionally used for soups, but can also be used for salads and other dishes. They have a fruity flavor and a crisp texture. The mushroom can be refrigerated for about one week.
The mushroom naturally grows on the stumps of the Chinese hackberry tree, called enoki in Japanese, but also on some other trees as for example mulberry and persimmon trees. There is a significant difference in appearance between the wild and the cultivated mushrooms. Cultivated mushrooms are not exposed to light resulting in a white color, whereas wild mushrooms usually have a dark brown color. The cultivated mushrooms are also grown to produce long thin stems, whereas wild mushrooms produce a much shorter and thicker stem.
The variety available in the supermarket is usually cultivated. The mushroom is cultivated in a plastic bottle or a vinyl bag for 30 days at 15°C and 70% humidity, on a substrate of saw dust or corn cobs, and a number of additional ingredients. Afterwards, the mushroom is grown for another 30 days in a slightly cooler but more humid environment. The growth is constricted to force the mushroom to grow long and thin. The mushroom available in the supermarket often still shows the impression of the bottle around the base of the mushroom.
The mushroom is very easy to cultivate, and has been cultivated in Japan for over 300 years, initially on wood, and later in the bottles as described above. Home cultivation kits are also available. Producers of different agricultural products may consider this mushroom a pest.
The cultivated variety of these crisply delicate mushrooms comes in clumps of long, spaghetti like stems topped with tiny, snowy white caps. (In contrast, the wild form has orangy-brown, very shiny caps.) Enokitake have an appealingly crunchy texture and mild-almost fruity-taste, unlike the bosky flavor of most mushrooms. Choose fresh mushrooms that are firm and white. Refrigerate, wrapped in paper towel then a plastic bag, up to 5 days. Before using, they should be cut away from the mass at the base of the stems. Enokitake are particularly good raw in salads. They may also be used to garnish soups or other hot dishes. If used as part of a cooked dish, they should be added at the last minute, as heat tends to make them tough. These tiny mushrooms provide a good source of vitamin D, as well as small amounts of the B-complex vitamins. The enoki is also called snow puff mushroom, golden mushroom and velvet stem.
Per 3.5 oz. (100 gram) of fresh, edible portion;
Percentages refer to U.S. RDA. Potassium doesn't have a U.S. RDA, but an Estimated Safe and Adequate Intake.
Medicinal Properties: As with most other edible wood-decaying mushrooms, Enoki mushrooms have been found to have medicinal properties. Enoki mushrooms contain a powerful polysaccharide called flammulin. Japanese and Chinese researchers have reported anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity from extracts containing this water-soluble polysaccharide. It is believed that the abnormally low cancer rates in Nagano, Japan (the center of enoki cultivation) is related to the high consumption of enoki in that region. Enoki is also thought to stimulate the immune system and be anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Blood pressure lowering and cholesterol lowering compounds have been found in Enoki. Research indicates that Enoki may be useful in treaing lymphoma and prostate cancer. To date, the bulk of scientific medical research on the medicinal effects of Enoki and other mushrooms has been conducted in Japan and China where mushrooms have been regarded for thousands of years as powerful, natural healing agents. Only recently has Western medicine initiated clinical trials to "prove" this ancient knowledge.
A Simple Recipe
4 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lb. enoki mushrooms, whole
Parmesan cheese to garnish