The world of culinary and medicinal mushrooms continually expands as scientific research confirms what ancient and traditional medicine systems have known for centuries: mushrooms are among the most nutrient-dense and health-supporting foods available. And among these beneficial fungi are enoki mushrooms.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about enoki mushrooms, including how to identify them, their history, health benefits, how to enjoy eating them, and much more.
Enoki mushrooms go by many names: enokitake or enokidake is Japanese for the Snow Peak mushroom. You might also see them called the winter mushroom, velvet shank, furry foot collybia, or sometimes the golden mushroom in Thailand (1). It’s also not uncommon for them to be called lily mushrooms or golden needle mushrooms. Regardless of how you see them labeled, all these names refer to the same mushroom.
These mushrooms will definitely stand out in your local supermarket’s produce section. Enoki mushrooms have long, delicate stems and pint-sized mushroom caps. And because they’re extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide and light levels, these mushrooms can vary in appearance (1). Commercially grown enoki shrooms typically have white to yellowish colored stems with similarly colored caps. In the wild, enoki mushrooms can be more brownish in color (2).
Stems of enoki mushrooms darken with age; they grow a dense layer of fine hairs near the base, which explains the velvet shank and furry foot monikers.
Enoki mushrooms have been used to boost health for centuries and date to 800 BCE in Asia, where they were first grown in Japan. Traditional medicine systems used the enoki mushroom to heal digestive issues, alleviate constipation, treat liver disease, and regulate blood pressure (3).
Like many mushrooms, enokis are highly nutritious and rich in vitamins and minerals. These humble little mushrooms are an excellent source of niacin and pantothenic acid. They’re also good sources of thiamin, riboflavin, copper, folate, and phosphorus.
Niacin is vital for regulating cholesterol levels and brain health, while pantothenic acid plays a role in metabolizing fatty acids. Thiamin regulates how your body’s nerve cells function.
Brimming with antioxidants, the compounds in enoki mushrooms work with your body to stave off chronic health conditions by cleaning up and neutralizing free radicals. Think of antioxidants as a security system and free radicals as burglars or some other threat you wouldn’t want inside your house. When antioxidants detect an invader, they move at the first sign of a break-in to protect your home (aka body) from damage.
The benefits of enoki mushrooms don’t stop there either; there’s evidence they may boost your immune system, positively impact brain function, and support heart health (4).
Enoki mushrooms are native to Asia and thrive in the temperate regions of China, Japan, and Korea (1). While they can grow worldwide in other temperate climates, most enoki mushrooms are cultivated indoors where their growing conditions can be carefully monitored and controlled (2).
Many of us are so used to visiting the supermarket that we neglect to realize we may have access to resources in our backyards. While it may be tempting to grab a knapsack and head out for an afternoon of gathering mushrooms, there’s a difference between foraging and ethically wildcrafting those mushrooms.
Foraging typically describes gathering wild food resources, whether mushrooms, berries, nuts, herbs, or other plant material. In contrast, ethical wildcrafting involves a more mindful and measured approach to harvesting wild food resources.
Wildcrafting enoki mushrooms involves identifying the mushroom in its natural habitat, carefully harvesting it while preserving the environment, and ensuring there are enough mushrooms left to continue growing. While it may seem like we’re the only ones waiting to feast on wild mushrooms, that isn’t the case. Birds, insects, deer, and other creatures are just as eager to snack on a mushroom. Overharvesting can negatively impact the local ecosystem far beyond what you might expect.
It’s essential to have a thorough knowledge of the mushroom species and its growing conditions for proper identification. It’s also crucial to have the right tools for harvesting to avoid damaging the delicate mycelial network just below the surface.
Take some time to learn about the area where you plan to wildcraft enoki mushrooms and any regulations or restrictions that may apply (you might need a permit to gather your mushrooms). Be sure to learn about other native mushroom species you may encounter while wildcrafting. Familiarizing yourself with potential lookalikes can prevent accidentally harvesting toxic mushrooms and ensure you don’t accidentally harvest a threatened species.
Ethical wildcrafting makes it possible to connect with nature in a gratifying and enriching way and preserve its natural beauty for years to come.
Suppose you decide that wildcrafting isn’t for you. In that case, you still have an option outside a farmers’ market or your local Asian grocery store. While it may take some practice, consider growing your own enoki mushrooms.
Enokies are deemed one of the best mushrooms to grow at home, and a grow kit can make it easy to get started. If you want some pointers for successful cultivation or need help troubleshooting, look for mushroom forums online. They’re a fantastic resource for learning and connecting with other mushroom aficionados.
Once you’re ready to harvest your home-grown enoki mushrooms, store them properly so you can keep them fresh and ready for the kitchen.
Psst: Whether you choose to wildcraft enoki mushrooms, grow your own, or shop at your local grocery retailers, it’s always a good idea to wash your produce and cook your food thoroughly. This is especially important in light of potential outbreaks of foodborne illness that have led to hospitalizations. Those who are pregnant or have weakened immune systems should take extra care in safe food handling and preparation. The CDC is an excellent resource for learning about recalled products. It’s also handy for looking into outbreak strains of listeria infection or other foodborne illnesses.
Popular in Asian cooking (especially Japanese cuisine) and so much more than a garnish, enoki mushrooms are easy to include in various dishes. Low in carbohydrates and full of essential nutrients, enoki mushrooms are a simple way to make any meal, from soups to stir-fry, healthier and more delicious. Here are a few of our favorite enoki mushroom recipes for you to explore in your kitchen.
The perfect side dish, these enoki mushrooms in garlic and scallion sauce are full of flavor and a breeze to prepare. Cook enoki mushrooms separately after blanching. Once done, heat your choice of cooking oil over medium heat, add garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and scallions, and gently saute. With a total time of 20 minutes, these mushrooms are ideal for a busy weeknight.
This hot pot recipe is bursting with flavor. It can easily be made vegetarian or protein-packed with shabu shabu beef (thinly sliced meat popular in Japanese hot pot dishes). Udon and ramen noodles both work well here. However, it’s recommended to use udon as ramen absorbs more of the flavorful broth.
A savory and spicy noodle dish perfect for any night of the week, longevity noodles use several different types of mushrooms for a variety of flavors and textures. Start by heating your choice of cooking oil over high heat until shimmering before adding onions and ginger—add garlic toward the end of cooking so it doesn’t burn. Next, toss your oyster, shiitake, and enoki mushrooms into the pan and gently fry until softened. Once cooked, throw your ingredients together to finish the dish, garnishing with scallions, cilantro, and furikake.
Enoki mushrooms are a versatile and delicious mushroom to experiment with in the kitchen. Adaptive to many dishes, these delightfully crunchy little mushrooms add a bevy of nutrients to any meal and are easy for cooks of all skill levels to enjoy.
To keep learning about mushrooms and all the benefits they offer, keep up with the latest news and discoveries on shroomer.