Mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years. As early as 400 B.C. Hippocrates mentioned their medicinal value in his writings. They’ve been seen in outdoor environments by chance, but not mentioned as cultivated until 1652.
Early on, they weren’t eaten-they were used as compresses and in various natural medicines throughout the world, but it wasn’t until 1894 that the first mushroom growing structure was designed and built. It was built in Chester County, Pennsylvania-now known as the world’s mushroom capital.
But in the world of mushrooms, there are growers and gatherers around the globe, and the most expensive edible mushrooms are considered true delicacies. These are the most difficult to harvest wild and cultivate.
Until recently, some were considered impossible to cultivate so private gatherers continue to collect the rarest mushroom types on a small scale. Known as fungi in many cultures, gourmet mushrooms are unique in flavor and color, with the most elusive often commanding the highest prices.
10. Enoki Mushrooms Cost - $8 a Pound
Enoki mushrooms have become readily accessible in numerous grocery stores throughout North America and Europe. Despite this, their physical appearance is distinctive from other mushroom varieties typically available for purchase. Featuring lengthy, slender white stems and diminutive caps, they tend to grow in clusters.
These diminutive mushrooms offer a subtle taste and serve as a delightful supplement to stir-fry dishes. When prepared appropriately and not overcooked, they maintain a satisfying crunch.
9. Oyster Mushrooms Cost - $5-$15 a Pound
Oyster mushrooms are a species of edible fungi that belong to the genus Pleurotus. They are named after their shell-like appearance, resembling that of oysters.
Oyster mushrooms have a distinctive aroma, often described as earthy and slightly sweet. They are available in a variety of colors, including grey, yellow, and pink, and have a delicate, velvety texture.
Oyster mushrooms are a nutritious addition to any diet, containing high levels of protein, fiber, and essential amino acids. They are also a good source of vitamins B and D, as well as minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium.
Due to their mild flavor, oyster mushrooms are versatile in the kitchen and can be used in a wide range of dishes, including soups, stews, stir-fries, and salads. Additionally, they are a popular meat substitute for vegans and vegetarians due to their meaty texture and umami flavor.
8. Lion's Mane Mushroom Costs - $10 a pound
Lion's mane mushroom, with its elongated, white spines, presents a visually captivating appearance, reminiscent of a miniature mop, a tuft of hair, or a diminutive white hedgehog.
Its distinct taste has been likened to that of lobster or crab meat, rendering it a popular choice in culinary pursuits. Formerly, lion's mane was gathered from the wild, but it can now be conveniently cultivated in controlled environments.
Apart from its edibility, lion's mane is also utilized for its therapeutic properties. While its fresh market price averages around $10 per pound, the dried and powdered form of lion's mane is valued considerably higher, with its sale serving as a popular supplement.
7. Shiitake Mushrooms Cost - $7-$15 a pound
Shiitake mushrooms have long been the preferred species in many Asian countries and have increasingly gained popularity in Western markets. Their robust texture and savory flavor impart a meat-like quality, rendering them an excellent substitute for meat in vegetarian recipes.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are readily available in many supermarkets and grocery stores, and dried varieties can also be procured in bulk. Their relative ease of cultivation, whether indoor under controlled conditions or outdoor using logs, contributes to their comparatively lower market price.
Besides their culinary use, shiitake mushrooms are believed to harbor medicinal properties. Although primarily grown as an edible mushroom, their perceived health benefits have earned them a reputation as a functional food.
6. Morels - $30-$90 a pound
Morels are among the most coveted fungi by mushroom enthusiasts, requiring skillful foraging to locate. Areas where morels grow are often kept confidential and shared exclusively with select family and friends.
Fortunately, morels have the capacity to resurface yearly in the same location, providing a steady supply for those in the know.
Due to the considerable challenge of cultivation, fresh morels are available exclusively in the wild for a limited period each year. Consequently, their seasonal availability and scarcity contribute to their high market value, rendering them one of the most costly mushrooms in the United States.
5. Chanterelles - $224 per pound
The beautiful golden Chanterelle is prized by gourmands for its spicy flavor. The mushrooms grow in coniferous forests and in the grass next to herbs. Though the Chanterelles come in white, yellow and orange varieties, the golden color is a favorite.
These mushrooms are expensive because they need specific growing conditions. A heavy rainfall followed by several days of heat and humidity are what help them grow best. They crop up in clusters around the end of spring and completely disappear when autumn arrives.
They must be completely cooked, as they can make people ill when eaten raw. Dried Chanterelles run about $224 per pound.
4. Black Truffles - $800 a pound
Black truffles are the most renowned of the truffle varieties, and despite their relatively lower cost than white truffles, they still possess a significant market value.
As with white truffles, black truffles are typically located in the wild using trained pigs and dogs. Attempts to cultivate them by American and Australian mushroom producers have yielded minimal success, with the laborious and expensive task of growing these fungi at the base of mature oak trees proving to be a considerable challenge.
This factor also contributes to the high cost of black truffle cultivation, rendering them one of the most expensive mushrooms to grow.
Most black truffles are procured by chefs at upscale restaurants, underscoring their exclusivity and culinary prestige.
3. Matsutake - $1,000 to $2,000 per pound
The Matsutake mushroom is a form of fungi which traditionally signaled the onset of autumn. For many Japanese, it is a delicacy which is treasured for it fruity, spicy aroma.
Prices range from $1,000 to $2,000 per pound. In recent years, the red pine trees which provide the Matsutake shelter have been killed in increasing numbers by an insect. The Tamba region near Kyoto is home to the red pines.
There are less trees, so there are less mushrooms underneath them. Unfortunately, methods for cultivating these mushrooms have not been developed yet, and this makes the Matsutake an endangered species.
2. European White Truffle - $3,600 per pound
At $3,600 per pound, European White truffles are the second most expensive mushrooms in the world. Though many believe truffles are different from mushrooms, they are both types of fungi.
What makes truffles so very expensive is that they are difficult to harvest so there are less of them to go around. Truffle hunters search through places like Italy and France seeking the prized delicacy.
They are so scarce that a black market for them has emerged. There are truffle thieves and those who steal the extraordinary truffle-sniffing dogs. Imports of inferior truffles from China have also flooded the market, and these are considered not as high quality as the European versions. It takes time to find the wild truffles and plenty of expertise, as they grow underground.
The truffle hunters find them at the base of oak trees but getting them to the restaurant tables and keeping there has become increasingly difficult. Reports of truffles being stolen from restaurants are paired with news that black-market thieves have sold them, and truffle dogs, anonymously- in nefarious back alley deals. Without a doubt, European white truffles are mushroom royalty.
1. Yartsa Gunbu - $50,000 a Pound
Growing from the bodies of ghost moth caterpillars, this parasitic fungus infects the caterpillar bodies with tiny spores which are air-borne. Once inside the caterpillars, the fungus eats its host alive.
The caterpillars die slowly, ending up mummified in an upright position near the earth’s surface. In the early spring, the fungus emerges from the dead caterpillar and pokes right through its head to reach the top of the soil.
The long thin mushrooms with round tops are easy to harvest. They are prized throughout the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau in the altitudes between the 3,000 to 5,000-meter marks.
Tibetan men believe the ancient texts which point to the fungus as an aphrodisiac. The best quality Yartsa sells for about $2,000 an ounce. It is considered a symbol of status to afford to eat this mushroom.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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