The name “shiitake,” comes from the Japanese language. “Shii” refers to the species of tree on which shiitake mushrooms naturally grow. “Take” simply translates as “mushroom.”
The Japanese have cultivated shiitake for over 1000 years by cutting the shii trees with axes and placing the logs beside trees that were already growing shiitake. They are now commercially cultivated all over the world, often undercover and on artificial substrate, although the best cultivated shiitake are grown in natural forest conditions on hardwood logs such as kunugi and nara, which are types of oak and of cause Japanese shii.
The time of year and more specifically the temperature and humidity in which the shiitake are grown has a great effect on the finished product. The highly prized and full flavoured donko shiitake are cultivated in late winter and early spring so they grow slowly and develop thick round caps which are only 50% open. The koshin shiitake are grown quickly during the warmer months so they are softer and thinner because there caps open wide. They have a lighter, more delicate flavour and take a lot less soaking time than the donko shitake.
While most cultivated shiitake are laid on trays and machine dried, the best tasting shiitake are still sun-dried in the traditional manner. The natural sun light has the effect of increasing the nutrient content and therefore the umami flavour of the mushroom.
All our shiitake are traditionally cultivated, picked and naturally sun-dried in the forests of the southern Kyushu area of Japan.
Please view the items in our Cook Tokyo Shop for a more detailed explanation of each individual product.