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Shoro mushrooms are very small in size, averaging 1-3 centimeters in diameter, and are oblong, oval, to round in shape with no true cap or stem, similar to a truffle. When young, the flesh of the mushroom is white and smooth and as it ages it turns to a fawn brown or grey due to spores being produced. Shoro mushrooms have a mellow flavor, a pine-scented aroma, and are prized for their crisp texture and sponge-like flesh which can readily absorb accompanying flavors.
Shoro mushrooms are available in the spring through fall.
Shoro mushrooms, botanically classified as Rhizopogon rubescens, are a wild, edible variety that are members of the Rhizopogonaceae family. Shoro mushrooms have a mycorrhizal, or symbiotic relationship with conifers and can be found just at the surface of the soil nestled among pine needles around the trunks of certain pine trees. Also known as “false truffles,” Shoro mushrooms are similar in appearance to the more expensive mushroom variety. A favorite in Japan, Shoro mushrooms are valued for their chewy, spongy texture, and it has been said that due to the rarity of the mushroom, the price for just over two pounds or one kilogram can cost as much as $550 USD.
Shoro mushrooms contain some vitamin D, manganese, potassium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus.
Shoro mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, sautéing, and braising. They are often found in Japanese soups, such as chawanmushi, which is a savory egg custard topped with meat and vegetables or suimono, which is a traditional autumn soup made with a clear dashi broth. They can also be marinated and served with meat, mixed into pasta, sliced into miso soup, or pickled for extended use. Shoro mushrooms pair well with gingko nuts, mitsuba leaves, edamame, carrots, fish cakes, shrimp, chicken, tofu, eggs, mirin, and ramen noodles. These mushrooms have a short shelf life and should be used immediately after harvesting.
In Japan, Shoro mushrooms have been used for centuries are were one of the most consumed mushrooms on the island approximately two hundred years ago. Since then, this variety has decreased in the wild due to forest destruction, but are still highly regarded as a delicacy and are used in seasonal dishes at upscale Japanese restaurants. Cultivation of Shoro mushrooms also began in the 1980s in an effort to increase availability and are now being cultivated in New Zealand. Despite the increase in production, some Japanese consumers claim that the New Zealand mushrooms lack the rich flavor of the native Japanese mushrooms and refuse to purchase non-native Shoros.
Shoro mushrooms are native to Japan. First appearing in records dating back to the 17th century, or the Edo era in Japan, Shoro mushrooms were widely consumed in the 19th century as a delicacy and could be found in abundance in the Osaka and Kyoto districts. The mushrooms were then transported to New Zealand through pine tree hosts implanted with Shoro mushroom spores and have been successfully growing there since the late 1990s. Today these truffle-like mushrooms can also be found at specialty grocers in the coastal pine forests of the United States, Europe, and Australia.