Originally from East Asia, shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are delicious and healthful. They grow wild throughout the Far East, but have been cultivated in oak logs in Japan for centuries. The technique, which involves inoculating logs with the mushroom, was introduced in Costa Rica in 2009 by the Centro Nacional de Hongos de Buthan. The University of Costa Rica and the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) organized the project in communities of Cerro de la Muerte in the province of Cartago.
Studies have shown the health benefits of shiitake, including lowering cholesterol, fighting tumors, and helping the body produce interferon – a natural substance that fights cancer and stimulates the immune system. Dried shiitake contains 20 percent protein by weight, along with trace minerals and vitamin B. Shiitake are the second most consumed mushroom in the world, and the third most consumed mushroom in the U.S., after white button and Portobello mushrooms.
You can buy shiitake at the Feria Verde in San José. For more info, visit the Facebook page of Hongos de Costa Rica.