Immune Boosting Shiitake Mushrooms
Biologists consider shiitake and other mushrooms to be fungi, a group of primitive plants. Since they have no green pigments (chlorophyll), they cannot make food from sunlight as other plants, but must live by eating plants. Shiitake’s favourite food is dead hardwood trees. The word “shii” is derived from the shii tree (Quercus cuspidate), an oak of central and southern Japan upon which shitake most often grow. “Take” means mushroom in Japanese (it is repetitious to say “shiitake mushroom”).
Ancient Foods For Modern Cooks
The part of shiitake that we eat, the fleshy cap, is actually a primitive reproductive structure of the plant that produces billions of microscopic spores. When two compatible spores get together, they fuse their cytoplasm and genetic material and, if food is available, grow into a new mushroom. When two compatible spores combine, they form the mycelium. In the case of shiitake, mycelium grows inside the log, using its powerful enzymes to transform wood into food. After a period of time, environmental stresses such as food depletion or temperature and humidity changes cause the mycelium to form a reproductive structure-the mushroom-and the cycle is complete.
In early autumn, as trees shed their leaves in preparation for a dormant winter, the carbohydrate level in the tree trunk rises, making an ideal food for shiitake growth.
Beginning in the 1960’s, scientists launched an extensive search to uncover the secret of shiitakes legendary healing powers. Their studies-about one hundred in all-focused on shiitake’s ability to rapidly lower serum cholesterol, as well as this mushroom’s potent antitumour, antiviral and antibiotic properties.
Shiitakes and Immunity
Many of the human diseases currently increasing throughout the world have no specific cures. Immune-system failure or dysfunction is a common element in cancer, viruses and immune-deficiency diseases. Many scientists around the world contend that there is increasing evidence that the health-promoting compounds found in medicinal and edible fungi, including shiitake, stimulate the immune system. The temperatures of cooking do not seem to destroy shiitakes healing qualities, in addition, cooking greatly enhances the mushrooms flavour. You can cook fresh shiitake in all the ways you are used to enjoying other mushrooms in soups, stews, sauces and gravies. The dried shiitake mushrooms I use in many of my recipes from my latest book Go Vegan not only taste amazing but they will build your immunity.
In good health