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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Matsutake Mushroom Season in Japan


Matsutake (literally "pine mushroom"), known as mycorrhizal mushrooms in English, or scientifically as Tricholoma matsutake is a very tasty species of mushroom that grows in certain environments in Japan during a limited season only.

Matsutake mushrooms in Takashimaya Department Store, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Matsutake mushrooms - any buyers?
The matsutake has been traditionally prized in both China and Japan for its distinctive aromatic flavor. It is richly meaty on the taste buds, and with a uniquely fresh and spicy odor that gives the eating experience a delightful, added olfactory dimension.

Matsutake is picky about where it grows. It usually grows only under the Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) in Japan. Matsutake hunters have the additional challenge of locating it before it's discovered by animals such as rabbits, deer and squirrels--who find them just as delicious as do humans.

Another challenge has been the decline of the Japanese red pine population on which matsutake depend, due to a pine nematode that has been attacking if for the past few decades.

The matsutake season has just begun this year in Japan. We were on the B1 food floor of the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi on Sunday, and saw this table of matsutake, the first of this year's crop. I have always known that matsutake are expensive--both because of their desirable flavor and their increasing rarity--but I felt it quite viscerally when I spied the price tags.

At today's exchange rates the 12,800 yen that a single matsutake is selling for is about USD105 or EUR95. The 21,600 yen that a pack of five is selling for is about USD180 or EUR160. Itadakimasu!

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