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Enoki: A Delicious Edible Mushroom

Enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) are a delicious mushroom that you can put in just about any dish. They compliment almost any flavor with a special texture that can enhance even the most basic of meals. It has been a culinary delight for a long time, over a thousand years that is! It is actually one of the earliest mushrooms to be cultivated. People started to cultivate enokitake, or enoki for short, around 800 AD. Not only is it a favorite in Japanese cuisine, but also Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and even in Hungarian dishes. There is quite a difference in appearance between the cultivated and the wild types of enokitake. The enoki growing in the wild usually display a darker appearance like a dark brown color, whereas the cultivated ones have not been exposed to light, resulting in a much whiter color. They are also grown in a carbon dioxide rich artificial environment to foster the development of long thin stems, where the ones harvested in the wild produce a much shorter and thicker stem. Enokitake mushrooms contain antioxidants and many other beneficial constituents so they are starting to be seriously considered for various health related applications such as development of vaccines and cancer immunotherapy. The real interesting part is that in a certain part of the the Nagano prefecture in Japan, where the enoki mushroom is cultivated the most, and because of proximity to the enoki growing facilities, the enoki consumption was nearly 8 times that of the national average in that area. As it turns out, no surprise to those who recognize the power of mushrooms, in that area the cancer rates were vastly lower than the national average! In addition, Enoki mushrooms are starting to show very interesting interactions alleviating food allergic reactions and a very strong anti-viral capacity. Next time you are in the Asian market, grab a hand-full of Enokitake and rest assured your body will be thanking you.