Enoki mushrooms are long and thin white mushrooms used in the Cuisine of Japan and China. These mushrooms, known as Flammulina velutipes or Flammulina populicola to biologists, are also called golden needle mushroom, winter mushrooms, velvet foot, or velvet stem.
The mushroom is available fresh or canned, the fresh mushroom being preferable. Cut off the root system (approximately 4 cm) and wash briefly before use. They are traditionally used for soups, but can also be used for salads and other dishes. They have a fruity flavor and a crisp texture. The mushroom can be refrigerated for about one week.
The mushroom naturally grows on the stumps of the Chinese hackberry tree, called enoki in Japanese, but also on some other trees as for example mulberry and persimmon trees. There is a significant difference in appearance between the wild and the cultivated mushrooms. Cultivated mushrooms are not exposed to light, which results in a white color, whereas wild mushrooms usually grow in a dark brown color. The cultivated mushrooms are also grown to produce long thin stems, whereas wild mushrooms produce a much shorter and thicker stem.
The variety available in the supermarket is usually cultivated. The mushroom is cultivated in a plastic bottle or a vinyl bag for 30 days at 15°C and 70% humidity, on a substrate of saw dust or corn cobs, and a number of additional ingredients. Afterwards, the mushroom is grown for another 30 days in a slightly cooler but more humid environment. The growth is constricted to force the mushroom to grow long and thin. The mushroom available in the supermarket often still shows the impression of the bottle around the base of the mushroom.
The mushroom is very easy to cultivate, and has been cultivated in Japan for over 300 years, initially on wood, and later in the bottles as described above. Home cultivation kits are also available. Producers of different agricultural products may consider this mushroom a pest.