Stinky Shiitakes
September 30, 2011 11:27 PM   Subscribe

Pungent shiitakes from a Korean market. Are they okay?

Today I bought a tray of shiitake mushrooms from a Korean market. They look nice, but when I got them home I realized they smelled strong, very pungent. Not quite unpleasant - somewhere between funky cheese, stale beer, and old onions. I've never had a mushroom that smelled like that. The enoki and shimeji mushrooms I bought at the same time don't have a strong smell.

Are they okay to eat? Is this maybe a similar type of Korean mushroom that's been labeled as shiitake?
posted by WasabiFlux to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I could be totally wrong, but....

The older mushrooms get - the stronger their taste and smell as they dehydrate. This is the one vegetable I do not worry about in my frig. I was a professional chef with technical food safety handling training.

Commercial mushrooms are grown in pretty sterile environments - think hydroponics - almost.

Also, you might have a variety that is more "authentic" - these should smell strongly.

If your mushrooms look healthy, rinse them and eat them!

Please. Enjoy.
posted by jbenben at 11:54 PM on September 30, 2011

Best answer: I've had some shitakes that were pretty funky smelling before. Sometimes, but not always, they'd been in my fridge a while. I like the slightly stronger, cheesier, more umami-rich flavor, myself. A wild mushroom should should take wild, ya know?
posted by mostlymartha at 12:19 AM on October 1, 2011

Best answer: There's an Asian grocery near me that sells dried shiitakes from a huge sack sitting on the ground. They are awesomely cheap, and they have a very strong odor like you describe. I've tried using them, but they impart a similarly strong flavor/odor to the food I make, and I guess I just don't know how to manage that.

I've dried shiitakes myself (accidentally in the refrigerator -- they rehydrate just fine), but they don't smell as strongly.

I'll be watching this thread.
posted by amtho at 8:11 AM on October 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. That's good to hear.

I suspected that they'd taste pretty awesome compared to the tamer shiitakes I've had, but by the time they had stunk up the fridge, I was having second thoughts. I'm glad they're okay to eat.

I'll probably use some in a stir-fry tonight. I'll let you know how they turn out.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:48 AM on October 1, 2011

Hi, I work in the American mushroom industry. One thing to keep in mind is that shiitakes should have a nutty, slightly garlicky aroma and taste. This will become more intense as they dry out and the umami becomes more pronounced. But they should never have a sour smell. There are many fresh shiitakes on the American market that were actually grown in China, Korea or Thailand and shipped by ocean freight.
Some are not really fresh . Before they are shipped they are partially dehydrated and vacuum packed. Both of these processes violate FDA guidelines. Any degree of dehydrating makes them processed mushrooms and they should not be sold as fresh. Vacuum packing is an even more serious problem. The FDA does not allow vacuum packing of fresh mushrooms and has very strict rules regarding canning and another processes. The reason for that is that there are potentially harmful organisms that thrive in an anaerobic environment. Think botulism.
Jbenben is right that many shiitakes are grown in very clean environments, especially in America. Although many are grown outdoors. Like most produce, mushrooms are about 90% water. Before you eat any imported produce ask yourself if you would drink the water. Less than 3 % of imported food, whether it's mushrooms, produce, seafood or meat is inspected. More than half of American mushroom farms have gone out of business in the last 20 years because of cheap imports.
I hope you will consider buying American grown mushrooms and helping us keep our jobs.
posted by Harry2011 at 3:43 PM on October 12, 2011

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