Shiitake (Lentinula edodes, Hua Gu)
After the common mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), the shiitake is perhaps the most common and beloved edible mushroom in the world. Many Asian cuisines take advantage of shiitake's distinctly umami taste and firm texture, which is why shiitake is sometimes referred to as the king of mushrooms.
Shiitake flourishes on the decaying wood of deciduous trees in Japan, China, and Vietnam. It has been a staple ingredient in culinary dishes as well as medicine in East Asia for thousands of years. The use of shiitake as a strengthening elixir in Traditional Chinese Medicine has been documented by scriptures which are over 2,000 years old. In these texts, shiitake is referred to as the "elixir of life".
Shiitake contains all essential amino acids, which makes this mushroom particularly attractive for vegans and vegetarians. Moreover, it also contains many vitamins and minerals as well as beta-glucans including lentinan and the alkaloid eritadenine, both of which are used for the treatment of various illnesses.