Mushroom

Introduction


Chinese dried mushroom (also called xianggu) is an edible mushroom which is beneficial to health. It has variant names such as “autumn mushroom” and “spring mushroom” according to its harvesting season. Among them, “winter mushroom” has the best quality. Nowadays, all Chinese dried mushrooms are commonly called “winter mushroom”.
According to mushroom’s different grading, it can be classified as “flower mushroom”, “thick mushroom”, “thin mushroom”, “small mushroom” and “xiangxin”. Among them, “flower mushroom” has the best quality. Winter mushroom has been honoured as “Mountain Delicacy” because it is highly nutritional and its flesh is tender and smooth; it is a superb ingredient for cooking or preparing delicacies in occasions of celebrations.
Flower mushroom available in the market is mainly imported from Japan, Korea and China. Japanese product has the highest quality and price, followed by Korean’s. The quality of Chinese dried mushroom varies a lot. However, the quality of top class Chinese dried mushroom can be comparable with Japanese product.
Flower mushroom ‘is neutral in nature, tastes light sweet, replenishes spleen and stomach, is beneficial to vital energy; effective in healing lost appetite and lack of energy and stamina’, has considerable food therapeutic value. It contains proteins, amino acids, fats, crude fibres and multi-vitamin. It helps stimulate metabolism and digestion after long time consumption, is a health enhancing food to give longevity.
Flower mushroom has strong fragrance, tastes delicious and has good mouth-feel. It is an excellent cuisine ingredient which can be either used in dishes or soups. It is suitable for consumption by any age group of either gender all the year round and has become a popular food ingredient for Chinese families.

Selection
Selection by superior quality:
The cap (also called mushroom umbrella) of high quality “flower mushroom” is big and has thick flesh, chubby; its rim is complete and has distinctive colour and strong fragrance. The head of its stem is thick and round, and is closely connected to the bottom of the cap. The surface of “flower mushroom” has few crack lines which are orderly and natural, look like snowflakes or daisy petals. The cap bottom is golden yellow. Fully dry “Flower mushroom” having stout tissue is top-grade product.
Selection by production area:
Japanese flower mushroom 
Produced mainly in Kyushu, Japan. Japan has strict criteria for quality standard and mushroom cultivators use the best quality mushroom seeds and wood, producing mushrooms giving smooth and slippery mouth-feel and strong fragrance. Because of applying stringent quality control and high local labour cost, the price is very expensive.
Korean flower mushroomMainly comes from Jeju Island, Korea. Its tissue lines resemble that of Japanese mushroom but its fragrance and mouth-feel is not as good. It has a small market share in Hong Kong.
Chinese flower mushroom 
Chinese flower mushroom is the mainstream of mushroom market in Hong Kong. It is produced in areas of northern Guangdong province and Fujian province. It was not welcomed by customers in the past due to inferior quality. Through transfer of cultivation technique and introduction of mushroom seeds from Japan, the quality of Chinese flower mushroom has gained much improvement in recent years. The quality of top-grade Chinese flower mushroom is now comparable with Japanese product.


Effect


Flower mushroom ‘is neutral in nature, tastes light sweet, replenishes spleen and stomach, is beneficial to vital energy; effective in healing lost appetite and lack of energy and stamina’.
Flower mushroom contains proteins, amino acids, fats, crude fibres, as well as more than 30 kinds of enzyme and constituents such as glucose, vitamin A, B1 and B2, nicotinic acid, iron, phosphor and calcium. Among them, there are 18 kinds of amino acids and in which, 7 kinds are among the 8 kinds of essential amino acids required by human body.
From the viewpoint of modern medicine, flower mushroom contains polysaccharides, which can improve immunity, deter growth of bad cells and fortify human’s disease-resistant organism. It helps stimulate metabolism, digestion and excretion of body waste over long time consumption, and is also helpful in balancing cholesterol and maintaining healthy liver function. Flower mushroom replenishes spleen and stomach, strengthens the heart and liver functions, tranquilizes and pacifies the mind; is a health enhancing food ingredient for preventing cardiac tube and liver disorders.

Classification
Classified by its grading:
Flower mushroomMushroom cap has distinctive pattern of crack lines
Thick mushroomMushroom cap is complete and thick
Thin mushroomMushroom cap is thin
Small mushroomSmall in size, like the size of a 50-cent coin
XiangxinThe lowest grade among all. It consists of the leftovers after product screening for the above classes. Its flesh is thin, not so tender and crispy.
Classified by cultivation method:
 Natural woodImitation wood
Cultivation methodCultivated by natural wood. Mushroom seeds are planted in the wood so that they can absorb the natural nutrients of the wood and grow gradually.Mushroom seeds are planted in the fungus bed made of materials like wood chips under simulated living environment of natural wood. Fungus bed cultivation can shorten the harvesting time and thus increase production volume.
Mouth-feelThe flesh is smooth and slipperyThe flesh is soft and smooth
Mushroom FragranceStrong mushroom fragranceLight mushroom fragrance
Mushroom patternNatural mushroom pattern, like snowflakes or daisy petal, with rough surface.Peculiar pattern, with smooth surface.
StemThinner and smallerStout and big
Connection jointVariantRegular
AdvantageThe nutritional content is high and has strong mushroom fragrance since it absorbs the natural nutrients from the woodMass production makes its price cheaper
Classified by production area:
Japanese flower mushroomProduced mainly in Kyushu, Japan. Japan has strict criteria for quality standard and mushroom cultivators use the best quality mushroom seeds and wood, producing mushrooms having smooth and slippery mouth-feel and strong fragrance. Because of applying stringent quality control and high local labour cost, the price is very expensive.
Korean flower mushroomMainly comes from Jeju Island, Korea. Its tissue lines resemble that of Japanese mushroom but its fragrance and mouth-feel is not as good. It has a small market share in Hong Kong.
Chinese flower mushroomChinese flower mushroom is the mainstream of mushroom market in Hong Kong. It is produced in areas of northern Guangdong province and Fujian province. It was not welcomed by customers in the past due to inferior quality. Through transfer of cultivation technique and introduction of mushroom seeds from Japan, the quality of Chinese flower mushroom has gained much improvement in recent years. The quality of top-grade Chinese flower mushroom is now comparable with Japanese product.


Assessment
The price of flower mushroom is not as expensive as the other health enhancing seafood. It has so many classes and the production is great, leading to few counterfeit mushrooms appear in the market; and yet, there are unethical businessmen falsely claim Chinese flower mushroom as Japanese product, so as to make several times of profit. It is therefore strongly advised to buy mushrooms from shops with good reputation and which possess certification of import from Japan.

Q&A
1.How to store flower mushroom?
It is not advisable to store flower mushroom for too long. Special care must be taken in keeping it away from damp. Store it in dry, cool and shaded place or refrigerated. Once the mushroom is damped, bugs will breed on it and make damage. Be careful not to store the mushroom together with food carrying fishy smell or chemicals; the mushroom will absorb foreign smells making it inedible.
2.What is the preparation work before cooking flower mushroom (as soup ingredient or dishes)?
It is necessary to soak and clean flower mushroom first before cooking:
  1. Wash the mushroom thoroughly; pay particular attention to the sands and earth kept on the face and bottom of the mushroom cap, and in between the cracks.
  2. Use lukewarm water to soak the mushroom because mushroom contains nuclease enzyme which, when soaked in water of about 80℃, can catalyze ribonucleic acid and decompose it to mushroom’s unique sweet taste. If soaking is done by cool or boiled water, or the soaking time is too long, the sweet taste of mushroom will be greatly reduced.
  3. Stop soaking when the mushroom is softened. Drain and set aside.
  4. Part of the sweetening element inside the mushroom will dissolve in the soaking water. Precipitate or filter the water and use it as cuisine sauce to enhance taste.
3.Why flower mushroom has strong mushroom fragrance whereas fresh winter mushroom has none?
It is because during the dehydration stage of processing fresh winter mushroom to flower mushroom, sun shining or baking can create chemical reaction on the enzymes inside the winter mushroom, relieving some of its elements to become fragrance – the unique mushroom fragrance.
4.Is the stem of flower mushroom not edible?
Negative. The stem of flower mushroom can be used as food ingredient. However, due to the stem flesh is rough and firm, adding its unpleasant look, it is usually being cut off before cooking of most dishes, especially delicacies. Nevertheless, the mushroom stem also carries strong mushroom fragrance. Many restaurants or housewives make use of the mushroom stems to prepare soup or for stewing purpose.
5.How to enhance the delicious taste of flower mushroom during cooking?
Preserve the flower mushroom with a little bit of sugar, oil and starch for about 15 minutes before soaking, draining and cooking procedure. Use the soaking water (filter first if precipitation occurs) for cooking to increase mushroom’s fragrance.
6.Is that only flower mushroom is edible among other fungus?
Negative. Fungus like monkey head mushroom, bamboo fungus, black fungus, white fungus and boletus edulis are popular edible fungus.