One mushroom highly prized by the Japanese and Chinese is “matsutake.” Japan has been having long love affair with it. However, only few people are able to eat it due to its expensive price. There are times when prices drop a little lower if there’s an optimal amount of rain and that is probably the best season to eat it.
The matsutake are a certain kind of mushroom which grows under trees or on the roots of red pines in and outside of Japan, measuring around 10-20 cm in length. They’ve been enjoyed in the Japanese cuisine since the ancient times. Matsutake are often associated with trees, as they usually grow under the pine trees. They can be found in other countries such as China, Korea, Laos, Finland, Canada, Sweden, USA and others. They are considered special because their strong scent which somehow stimulates your appetite!
The best time to pick matsutake is the season between September to October. It is best to harvest them when their caps are not yet open. When they caps do open, the scent fades away.
It is hard to find matsutake due to a specific requirement in their length. Only a small number of forests are appropriate for their growth. On top of that, you are also competing with local folks and animals in harvesting the mushrooms. This is one of the reasons why matsutake cost is relatively expensive. It can go as high as $2,000 per kilogram! If you’re after imported matsutake, it can cost around $90 per kilogram. Prices do fluctuate widely all throughout the year depending on harvest time. The top matsutake producer in Japan is Nagano Prefecture, although some may say that the great city of Kyoto offers the best matsutake in the country.
There are many ways to prepare matsutake but you can try the traditional Japanese ones such as grilling it, preferably on top of the table with a charcoal grill for even better the aroma. You can gently steam-cook it with dashi stock in a ceramic pot or prepare it the easiest way by cooking it with a small amount of rice.