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What is Enokitake?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Enokitake, also known as Flammulina velutipes, is a type of edible mushroom found in many parts of the world including North America and Asia. Enokitake actually comes in two forms: a wild form and a cultivated variety, which look radically different. The cultivated variety is far more flavorful and interesting, although the wild form is perfectly edible. Cultivated Enokitake is very popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and can be found fresh and canned in many markets.

The cultivated form of Enokitake is a mushroom that is white to pale yellow in color with a long, thin stem and a very small button cap. Cultivated Enokitake is also sometimes called “golden needle mushroom” because of the shape. The color and form of the mushroom are a result of the way in which it is cultivated, in long dark jars. Deprived of sunlight, the mushroom is unable to take on any color, and grows a long stem in an attempt to reach daylight. The result is a slightly crunchy Enokitake, with a fruity or yeasty flavor that many people find quite delightful.

Wild Enokitake looks very different, and is sometimes known as Velvet Foot because of the texture of the stem. In the wild form, Enokitake has a broad brown cap which can reach a width of three inches (seven centimeters). The cap of the mushroom is moist and somewhat sticky as well as slightly convex, although it will flatten out as the mushroom grows older. The stem is black and velvety in texture.

The Velvet Foot is perfectly edible, although a little watery and bland. However, mushroom gatherers need to collect with caution, because the winter fruiting mushroom resembles several poisonous species. A true Velvet Foot will make a white spore print, and will be characterized by the velvety stem and the growth pattern of the mushrooms, which usually appear in clusters on rotted wood. Always collect mushrooms with an experienced guide, as well as a high quality collecting manual.

Cultivated Enokitake is delicious in stir fries and other Asian inspired dishes. The mushrooms are reasonably durable and can stand up well to cooking, or be added closer to the end to allow the crunch and flavor to stand out more. When preparing cultivated Enokitake for cooking, the roots of the mushrooms should be trimmed from the stalks and the mushrooms should be gently brushed or washed and patted dry if they are going to be used immediately.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Azuza — On Oct 01, 2011

@strawCake - That's funny, I saw some wild mushrooms recently but I didn't pick them because I'm not very well versed on which are poisonous and which aren't.

In the case of enokitake, it sounds like the cultivated one are a bit tastier than the wild ones anyway!

By strawCake — On Oct 01, 2011

I just wanted to reiterate that people should be careful if they are looking for wild mushrooms. We've been having particularly rainy weather where I live for the last few months. A lot of wild mushrooms have popped up.

People have been harvesting and eating them, and most people have been fine. However, in the last two week four different people have been hospitalized for accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms! So if you're going to go out in search of enokitake, make sure you get that and not a poisonous variety!

By ysmina — On Sep 30, 2011

@turquoise-- It used to be very difficult to find enokitake and other Asian mushrooms in the US before. I think it has actually gotten much better.

Before I left for Japan where I took a teaching job for a couple of years, I couldn't see enokitake, straw mushrooms, shiitake or black mushrooms in stores. I ate enokitake (also called 'enoki' in Asia) for the first time in Japan.

Since I've been back though, I have seen black mushrooms, shiitake and even enokitake at an organic store! I think more producers have started cultivating these mushrooms. I hope that they will be very easily found in grocery stores in the next few years.

By turquoise — On Sep 30, 2011

I read that enokitake mushrooms have a lot of antioxidants and are a great way to protect from disease and cancer. Doctors even recommend cancer patients to consume it to help them fight the cancer.

I knew that dark colored fruits and vegetables help to protect and fight against disease, but I hadn't heard about mushrooms before. It's too bad that exotic mushrooms like enokitake aren't more easily found in regular groceries.

By burcinc — On Sep 29, 2011

Enokitake reminds me of shimeji mushrooms very much. Shimeji is a Japanese mushroom type and is also used a lot in Asian cooking.

Once I confused enokitake and shimeji at the Asian grocery store. Enokitake caps are a little smaller and have a longer body than shimeji. The taste is also not the same. They are both crunchy mushrooms but shimeji is nuttier than enokitake. Shimeji is also often a bit darker in color, but I have seen white ones too and since both enokitake and shineji form clusters, it's easy to confuse the two.

I think both are good for cooking stir-fries but I prefer enokitake if I can find it because shimeji can be a bit bitter if it is not cooked well. Enokitake always tastes fruity and mild, even if it is a little undercooked. So I don't have to worry if I am cooking with enokitake.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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