Shiitake mushrooms have a rich, earthy flavor and a distinctive taste best described as meaty. Lentinula edodes is native to the mountain regions of Japan, Korea, and China, where it grows on fallen logs. This species has a long history of use all throughout East Asia, with people collecting wild shiitake for both food and traditional medicine. People in China first began cultivating shiitake mushrooms about 1,000 to 1,200 years ago, where they knew the species as dongo or shanku.
Cultivation methods later spread to Japan, with samurai warriors controlling most of the production for the aristocracy. Here, shiitake gained the name that remains widely accepted today — shii for Castanopsis cuspidata, the hardwood tree species that the mushrooms commonly grow on, and take, the Japanese word for mushroom.
Today, shiitake mushrooms are popular around the world for their taste and their handy ability to grow on either natural fallen logs or artificial substrate. You can find them grown commercially in China, Japan, the United States, Korea, and Brazil, with China producing about 80 to 90 percent of all shiitake worldwide.
Shiitake mushrooms have one of the highest amounts of natural copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support. In fact, 1/2 cup of shiitake mushrooms gives you 72 percent of your daily recommended intake (DRI) of this mineral. The mushrooms are also a rich source of selenium, providing 33 percent of your DRI. (WebMD)