Eat Shiitake Soup to Soothe the Winter Blues

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Shiitake mushrooms offer a solution to the winter doldrums and can help with New Year's resolutions for weight loss and improving health. Shiitakes are an excellent choice for wintertime table fare: They can create feelings of happiness, provide high-protein, low-fat nutrition, reduce cholesterol, and strengthen the immune system. Shiitake grower Dr. Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm offers a recipe for Creamy Shiitake Soup.

“Eating shiitakes regularly, especially in soups where we get the healing broth of the mushroom and the powerful medicinal compounds in the stems, can warm us, heal us and soothe us emotionally as well as physically.”

Shiitake mushrooms with their woodsy, deep flavor and high protein value are more than simply “food and fuel.” These mushrooms contain compounds and energetic imprints that can affect our emotions, relieving grief and sorrow and bolstering feelings of happiness and joy.

“Shiitake mushrooms can help us lose the winter’s blues,” according to Dr. Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, a top-ranked producer of shiitake mushroom log kits. With over 25 years of working with the world’s second-most popular mushroom, she knows what she’s talking about.

“We say the New Year promises a fresh beginning, but the cold and dark can push us into an inner lack of light. We might regret how we failed to fulfill last year’s resolutions," Williams believes. “Our new resolutions can feel like a wall to be scaled rather than an exciting challenge that we can engage with enthusiasm.”

“Shiitakes are high in protein, low in fat and can actually lower cholesterol, making them ideal for weight-loss and health-improvement resolutions,” Dr. Williams explained. “They create feelings of happiness and joy. Ancient peoples in Asia, where shiitakes grow wild, ate them to ease sorrow and grief.”

Mushrooms can provide support for both health and emotional wellbeing. “Properties that have long been recognized and appreciated in Chinese medicine are now becoming better understood as scientific investigation proves their effectiveness in treating physical, mental and emotional disorders,” the mushroom grower added.

Shiitakes are known for their ability to stimulate and strengthen the immune system. For people with frequent colds, flu, and for those with immune systems compromised by fast foods, stress and exhaustion, eating shiitakes regularly can support better health. For those with immune systems compromised by antibiotics and other prescription drugs, chemotherapies and radiation, Williams recommends mushroom supplements, available online and in health food stores. Shiitakes and shiitakes combined with reishi mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, and other immuno-stimulant fungi can help fend off complications and speed healing.

Williams is a strong proponent of shiitakes as medical support. “In Japan and in more advanced cancer treatment centers here in the US, injections of shiitake and reishi compounds are used to treat cancer and to reduce the side effects and support recovery from chemo and radiation.”

Shiitakes are considered a "pharmaceutical food" and can be eaten raw, fresh or dried, steamed without fat, baked, broiled and charcoaled, and Dr. Williams' favorite, "sautéed in butter and olive oil with salt and pepper and lots of garlic."

Creamy Shiitake Soup

6 Tbsp butter                        
½ lb. shiitake, quartered if large
Shiitake stems
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, finely chopped            
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour                
1 tsp. salt                         
¼ tsp dried thyme leaves                
2 tsp. ketchup
1 cup half-and-half
1 egg
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. dry sherry

Start with the stems. They are edible, but woody and tough. Either slice them very thin or bake them at 300° F./149° C. until dry enough to powder in a processor. Add dried stems to the soup when they're ready. Sauté the shiitakes (and sliced stems) in butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan until lightly browned. Remove and reserve about 1/3 of the mushrooms. To the shiitake pan, add the onions and cook until limp and golden. Mix in flour, cooking until bubbly. Add salt, thyme and ketchup. Remove from heat. Gradually mix in broth. Cook and stir until soup boils gently. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Whirl soup, half at a time, in a blender until it has the desired consistency. Return it to the saucepan. Stir in the half-and-half and heat until steaming (Do not boil). Beat egg with lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir in a small amount of hot soup. Pour egg mixture into remaining soup. Mix in reserved shiitake. Cook, stirring, until very hot (Do not boil). Mix in sherry. Serves 4.

Adapted from “The Shiitake Sampler,” by Janet Bratkovich. Additional shiitake recipes are available on the Lost Creek Mushroom Farm website (below).

Lost Creek Mushroom Farm sells shiitake mushroom log kits, guaranteed to produce, from $30-$80, including shipping and handling. Kits, gift baskets, 6-inch ‘Shroomies, and more products are available at For phone orders and to request a free brochure call 1-800-792-0053. Order by mail to Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, PO Box 520, Perkins, OK 74059. Some products are available on at slightly higher prices. Lost Creek Mushroom Farm donates a portion of sales to Mushrooms in Ghana Project, promoting small-scale mushroom farming in West Africa.

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