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(Scientific Name: Lentinula edodes) An Asian mushroom with a pale brown to dark reddish brown cap that is generally two to four inches wide. The young mushrooms have an in rolled edge, which nearly flattens out with age. The stems are tough and fibrous and are generally detached and discarded. The cap has creamy white gills on its underside and its flesh is firm and white. The mushroom grows in clusters on hardwood, such as oak, chestnut and beech. The flesh is meaty textured with a rich, smoky flavor and goes well with all foods. It can be sautéed, baked or broiled and can be used in soups, casseroles, sauces, in stuffing for poultry or fish and eaten on their own. Japanese black mushrooms are available fresh and dried. Select those that are firm and plump and avoid any that are shriveled, dry, slimy or bruised. The mushrooms should be stored without cleaning, loosely wrapped in paper towels or a paper bag in the refrigerator. Do not store in plastic. When ready to use, clean by removing grit with a damp paper towel or gently scrub with a soft brush. If you must use water, keep to a minimum and then pat dry with a paper towel. Japanese black mushrooms are also known as Shiitake mushrooms.
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