If there’s one word that perfectly describes beech mushrooms, it’s “cute.” You should see them with their little caps and long stems growing in small clusters. They almost look like they’re peering out at the world around them.
With all that adorableness, you would expect them to taste as sweet as they look, right? To some extent, they do, but only if you prepare them the right way. Once you cook out the initial bitter flavor that’s masked by their endearing exterior, the flavors morph into a sweet nuttiness of which many mushroom lovers just can’t get enough.
Simply toss a handful of beech mushrooms in some butter, 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.
But, what is it about these little fungi that make them so beloved? This guide explores everything you need to know about beech mushrooms.
Beech Mushrooms — Where to Find Them
Beech mushrooms are no doubt the most popular mushroom varieties in China and Japan, where they are known as Shimieji. They are wild and often found growing on decaying Beech trees – hence their name. You may also find them growing out of cracks on 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 it 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.
They go by different names, including Buna-Shimieji, Hon-Shimieji, Chiodini, Pioppini, Alba Clamshell, and Clamshell. Their scientific name is Hypsizygus Tessulatus.
While Beech 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 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 a beech mushroom that looks slimy or soggy.
How to Store, Clean, and Cook Beech Mushrooms
The storage method you employ ultimately depends on the packaging that you bought them in. If you purchase a cluster of beech mushrooms without the protective bags, you need to use them within five days. Wrap them in a paper towel, place them in an unsealed bag, and keep them refrigerated during this period.
If, on the other hand, you buy them in cellophane bags or cellophane-like plastic containers, you can leave them in there until you’re ready to use them. They’ll stay fresh for several weeks. Whatever you do, don’t freeze them!
Before you cook them, it’s always a good idea to give them a gentle rinse, although it isn’t necessary. Commercially cultivated beech mushrooms are generally kept relatively clean while growing. Only wash them when you intend to use them immediately after.
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, stir-frying, and using them in soups. Although they don’t overcook easily, they taste better when they’re slightly firm.
Health Benefits of Beech Mushrooms
It’s important to mention that any health benefits that you would derive from mushrooms are all useless if you don’t cook them. Heat breaks down the enzymes present in the fungi that would otherwise get in the way of nutrient absorption if you ate them raw.
With that said, 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 plays a vital role 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 just 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 that beech mushrooms bring to the table. They look great and taste even better. The fact that they have a myriad of 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, then you need to check out our Complete Guide to Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. You might be surprised by what you learn.
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