Hypsizygus Tessellatus (Shimeji Mushroom)
Beech mushrooms (Hypsizygus tessellatus), or shimeji as they’re called in Japanese, are very popular edible mushrooms in East Asian cuisine and culture. The mushroom clusters are often found growing on decaying beech trees; hence, the name beech.
These small, thin-looking mushrooms grow in groups of white edible stems topped by small round mushroom caps that are either pure white (like the stem) or a mottled brown color (brown beech mushrooms). Every part is edible except for the base of the cluster from which the mushrooms should always be cut.
Cultivation of beech mushrooms is a popular method of growth and mass production. They are typically grown in this way, feeding off the sawdust of the beech trees they prefer.
Bunashimeji mushrooms come in two color varieties: white and brown. They have a typical mushroom-like flavor, savory and umami in nature. The classic-looking caps add visual appeal, and have earned them the moniker clamshell mushrooms.
Without a doubt, white and brown beech clamshells are a perfect alternative to other mushrooms in your favorite dish. Move over porcini! They’re also a great meat substitute for vegetarians or vegans.
They have a slightly buttery, nutty flavor, and a firm, crunchy texture after cooking. Beech mushrooms tend to produce very soft caps, and brown beech mushrooms have a more bitter taste than other mushroom varieties, such as button mushrooms.
While it is possible to consume beech mushrooms raw, it is not recommended, as cooking increases the bioavailability of nutrients and the ease of digestion.
Beech mushrooms are often enjoyed steamed, baked, or as part of a stir-fry. They can be chopped or eaten whole. Consider adding them to boiling water to release their umami flavor further and provide more nutrients to your soup or stew.
While the mushrooms grow bunched together, they can easily be separated and tossed into a pan for frying or sautéing with olive oil or butter. In fact, this is the preferred preparation method, as no chopping is required (they’re bite-sized as it is)!
White beech mushrooms, also known as Bunapi-shimeji or hon-shimeji, have white small caps with identically colored stems that connect to a thick, inedible base from which the mushrooms grow. They tend to have a slightly sweeter taste when cooked, although they are sharp and bitter when consumed raw. For those who avoid mushrooms because they don’t like how “bitter” they may be, cooked white beech mushrooms are a sweet alternative.
Although white beech mushrooms are derived from similar fungi as the brown beech, they are often preferred to brown beech mushrooms both for their look and flavor profile, as brown beech mushrooms tend toward bitter and classically “mushroom-like” in their flavor profile.
That being said, brown beech mushrooms are traditionally regarded as “gourmet” due to their slightly more intense umami flavor. Brown beech mushrooms are highly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes similar to shiitake, enoki, and oyster mushrooms.
Health Benefits of Beech Mushrooms
It’s worth noting that any health benefits found in beech mushrooms are rendered useless unless the mushrooms are cooked, breaking down the enzymes that allow the nutrients to be absorbed.
Beech mushrooms are rich in protein and contain many of the B vitamins, as well as potassium, zinc, and copper. Like many other mushrooms, beech mushrooms are a remarkable source of dietary fiber, but they also contain beta-glucan polysaccharides that are notable immunity boosters and may also deliver some anti-tumor action.
In a Japanese study reported in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers found that mice fed maitake, king trumpet, or beech mushrooms had a lower level of atherosclerosis, which is the process that creates plaque deposits in the arteries, than did mice fed a regular diet. The mushrooms are believed to lower triglyceride levels, which contribute to atherosclerosis. Of the three mushrooms used in the study, the beech mushroom provided the most artery protection.
Beech mushrooms: high in protein, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. Believed to help fight heart disease.
Brown Beech Mushroom and Chicken Stir Fry
You can’t beat a simple and quick stir fry! Serve this dish with a bowl of rice and enjoy the classic Chinese flavors. Here’s a new stir fry technique for you: instead of adding the ginger and garlic first to the pan, you’ll be adding them AFTER the chicken is almost cooked through. This ensures that the aromatics do not burn! (Serves 4)
1 chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 package Hokto Brown Beech Mushrooms, ends trimmed and mushrooms separated
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
thinly sliced green onions and chili pepper, if desired
1. Slice the chicken in very thin strips. In a bowl, marinate chicken with the soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, cornstarch and sugar for 15 minutes on counter or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Heat a wok or saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the cooking oil. Add the chicken slices and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is just about cooked through (timing depends on how thick you slice chicken). Turn the heat to medium and then add the garlic and the ginger to the pan. Stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
3. Add in the mushrooms and the oyster sauce bringing the sauce to a simmer and cooking for 30 seconds. Dish out and garnish with fresh green onions and chili pepper.