Introduction to Beech Mushrooms
Beech mushrooms, also known as Hypsizygus tessulatus, are a type of edible mushroom that grow on hardwood trees, especially beech trees. They are native to East Asia. These mushrooms are highly sought after by foragers and gourmet cooks alike for their unique nutty flavor and firm, slightly crunchy texture.
In the wild, beech mushrooms tend to be wide and flat. As they are native to Asia, these wild mushrooms are rarely seen in North America.
Beech mushrooms are commonly cultivated. Farm-grown ones are quite thin and long, with little round caps. They come in both white and brown, but brown beech mushrooms taste the same as white beech mushrooms.
Beech mushrooms are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to stir-fries, risottos, and omelets. They can be a pleasant change from the usual button mushrooms.
These mushrooms actually quite good on their own: simply toss a handful of beech mushrooms into some butter or olive oil, spiced with salt and pepper over medium-low heat. You can add a little parsley if you’re feeling extra fancy before drizzling them over a pan-fried steak or flame-grilled fish.
Whether you are a seasoned forager or a curious home cook, this article has something for everyone interested in learning more about this delicious and nutritious wild mushroom.
Beech Mushrooms — Where to Find Them
Beech mushrooms are perhaps the most popular mushroom variety in China and Japan, where they are known as Shimieji. They are fairly common in the wild and often found growing on decaying Beech trees – hence their name. You may also find these wild mushrooms growing out of cracks in cottonwoods and elms in a multi-headed mass.
They have small round mushroom caps that take on a mottled brown color or pure white depending on the specific variety. Every part of this mushroom is edible except for the base of the cluster. They have a crunchy texture with a savory umami mushroom-like flavor with a nutty and slightly buttery and nutty flavor when cooked. It’s no wonder so many people love these flavorful mushrooms!
Beech mushrooms go by different names, including Buna Shimeji, Hon Shimeji, Chiodini, Pioppini, Alba Clamshell, and Clamshell mushrooms. Their scientific name is Hypsizygus Tessulatus. Remember that in a Japanese specialty store, you should ask for shimeji; in parts of North America, they’re referred to as clamshell mushrooms in health food stores and farmer’s markets.
While these mushrooms don’t typically grow wild in the US, growers do cultivate them in temperate regions of the country.
Your best bet would be to purchase this delicious edible mushroom at your local specialty grocery store. An Asian food store would be a great place to start. Pick the ones that look dry and feel firm. Steer clear of ones that look slimy or soggy. Other than aesthetics, there is no difference between brown beech mushrooms and white beech mushrooms.
How to Store, Clean, and Cook Beech Mushrooms
Fresh beech mushrooms are quite hardy; you can usually store mushrooms for up to a week, and these are no exception. Wrap them in a paper towel, place them in a paper bag, and keep them refrigerated during this period.
Many people wonder if it’s possible to freeze these mushrooms, but in our experience, they become mushy and unpalatable, completely losing their crisp texture
Water is the enemy of fresh mushrooms, and washing your mushrooms can leave them a soggy mess. Commercially cultivated beech mushrooms are generally kept relatively clean while growing. If you do see signs of dirt, try to wipe it off each beech mushroom with a damp paper towel.
Before cooking them, ensure that you cut away the interconnected bottom of the mushroom bundle and hand-separate the stalks to allow them to cook evenly. You can prepare them in several ways. Popular methods include baking them, roasting them, and using them in soups. And of course, there is the most common method, the stir fry.
These mushrooms are quite bitter when eaten raw; they are much better cooked.
Although they don’t overcook easily, they taste better when they’re slightly firm.
Health Benefits of Beech Mushrooms
Here are some of the top health benefits you get from integrating beech mushrooms into your regular diet.
Beech mushrooms contain high levels of Selenium – a powerful antioxidant. This compound is responsible for warding off free radicals, which bring about widespread cell damage in the body and contribute to the onset of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Rich in B Vitamins
These mushrooms are high in Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, and Niacin. Together, these three B vitamins play a critical role in the formation of healthy red blood cells, the production and regulation of hormones, as well as the proper functioning of the nervous and digestive systems. B vitamins are also directly linked to your skin health.
This soluble dietary fiber is vital in protecting your heart and improving your overall cholesterol profile. Beech mushrooms, in particular, have high levels of β-glucan, which helps in the regulation of blood sugar, significantly reducing the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.
Copper helps to maintain healthy bones and nerves. It also plays a role in the production of red blood cells, which are essential for oxygen delivery to all the cells in the body. A single cup serving of beech mushrooms provides 33% of the daily recommended dietary copper requirement.
High in Potassium
When you think of a rich source of potassium, bananas are likely the first thing that comes to mind. What you might not know is that one cup of cooked beech mushrooms has more potassium than what you would find in a medium-sized banana.
Potassium has so many significant health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, protecting against stroke, preventing osteoporosis, and guarding against the formation of kidney stones.
Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. Beech mushrooms typically grow in dimly lit conditions. But, if you expose them to sunlight just before you eat them, they absorb Vitamin D like your skin does when you walk out in the sun. So, they can be an additional source of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin D helps in the synthesis and regulation of Calcium and Phosphorus in the blood. These are two essential minerals that are critical in maintaining good bone health.
Gourmet Cooking in Your Home Kitchen
Give your home-cooked meals a gourmet effect with the classic umami flavor these mushrooms bring to the table. They look great and taste even better. The fact that they have myriad health benefits to boot is a definite plus!
So, treat yourself to some beech mushrooms and delight in the decadence of fine dining right in the comfort of your home.
In the meantime, are you looking for a healthy alternative to chicken? If you are, check out our Complete Guide to Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. What you learn might surprise you.
If you’re interested in foraging for other types of mushrooms, check out our article Mushroom Foraging — The Ultimate Guide.
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