Varieties of Enoki Mushroom
There are actually two different kinds of enoki mushrooms though both are botanically classified as Flammulina velutipes. One is a wild type which looks and tastes radically different from the cultivated mushroom. The cultivated ones are raised under specific conditions to modify the look and flavor of the mushrooms and while both versions are perfectly palatable, many consumers prefer the cultivated mushrooms since they have a more intense flavor.
The wild mushrooms are found naturally growing on the stumps of the enoki tree. They are also known as enokitake or enokitaki. These mushrooms are golden to dark brown in color, with a dense velvety growth on the lower part of their stems which leads some people to call them Velvet Foot mushrooms. After wild collection, the mushrooms are eaten lightly cooked, and they generally last only a few days in a paper bag under refrigeration, so they should be used quickly after harvesting.
The significant difference in appearance between the wild and cultivated types of the mushroom is because of the varying conditions under which they grow. Cultivated mushrooms are not exposed to light resulting in a white color whereas wild mushrooms usually display a dark brown color.
For the best taste, you should avoid buying winter mushrooms in cans or jars; you want them to be fresh. Also, avoid the ones that have brown or slimy stalks. The best enokis are firm and have white with shiny caps. Fresh, crisp enokis refrigerated in their original package will keep well for about a week.
Cooking with Enoki Mushrooms
To use the mild, slightly fruity flavored enoki mushrooms in cooking, start by gently rinsing the mushrooms to remove surface dirt. Next, trim the bottom of the mushrooms off, as the mushrooms come in thick clumps. Most cooks trim right where the mushrooms begin to branch off, so that each mushroom is separated from the base. The mushrooms can be tossed into foods raw for extra crunch and flavor, or lightly cooked.
Enokis are most often used in salads, sandwiches, as garnish or added to soups (usually at the end of cooking because of their delicate nature.) They can also be thrown in at the end of stir-fry dishes and pair well with any fish.0