Mushrooms are a type of fungus that play an integral role as decomposers in the globe’s ecosystems, breaking down dead organic material and recycling resulting nutrients. However, these fascinating fungi and members of the plant family have many uses other than their ecological value.
The many varieties of mushrooms can be found referenced across cultures in a variety of cuisines. Many have cultivated mushrooms as they contain certain compounds that studies have begun to confirm that they offer tremendous healthful, helpful, and natural benefits. Its potential is clearly apparent when one considers that the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, mentioned mushrooms' medicinal value as early as four hundred years B.C.
Mushrooms come in many sizes, colors, and shapes – growing in a variety of habitats and environs from grasslands to forests – often randomly growing on organic matter that is decaying. Although it is noted that while some mushrooms are tasty – including the most expensive mushrooms in the world –others are dangerously toxic if ingested.
To understand the depth and breadth of the value of the mushroom marketplace, we checked the most recent National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (USDA 8/2022) Mushroom Value Sales Report, which notes that the previous annual sales data for all types of mushrooms was an impressive $1.2 billion.
Next, our search for the most expensive mushrooms continued by using information from a small town – Kennett Square - to the south of Philadelphia in the Brandywine Valley/Chester County area – near Lancaster and Pennsylvania’s Amish and Dutch communities.
To learn the nuances that growers must follow to cultivate the most expensive mushrooms in the world, we consulted with these authorities -
American Mushroom Institute
The AMI represents the U.S. mushroom industry professionally, offering advocacy and support to all members of the market.
International Society for Mushroom Science (ISMS)
The ISMS is a global organization that brings together professionals – from researchers to scientists - to exchange ideas that advance the field.
British Mycological Society
The BMS is designed to advance the study of fungi.
More local organizations across the world include –
- Pennsylvania Mushroom Growers Cooperative
- European Mycological Association
- Canadian Mushroom Growers' Association
The Most Expensive Mushrooms in the World
And note that with recent inflation, mushroom lovers are feeling the price pinch, too.
10. Lion's Mane Mushroom - $10 per pound.
This type of 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 because of its use as an effective supplement.
9. Shiitake Mushrooms - $7- $15 per pound.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been the preferred type 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 indoors under controlled conditions or outdoors using logs, contributes to their comparatively lower market price.
Besides their varied use in food prep, shiitake mushrooms are believed to provide medicinal properties. Although primarily grown as edible mushrooms, their perceived health benefits have earned them a reputation as a functional food.
8. Enoki Mushrooms - $16 - $20 per pound.
Enoki mushrooms, which are lengthy, with slender white stems and diminutive caps, have become readily accessible in numerous grocery stores throughout North America and Europe. Despite this, their physical appearance is unique from other mushroom varieties typically shown in produce markets for purchase.
These small 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.
7. Oyster Mushrooms - $18 - $21 per pound.
Oyster mushrooms, which rank among the most popular in Europe and North America, are a species of edible fungi that belong to the plant genus Pleurotus. They are a type of gilled mushroom 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.
These types of mushrooms are versatile because they offer a mild flavor that integrates with 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.
6. Chanterelles - $30 - $50 (Fresh) per pound.
The beautiful golden Chanterelle is prized by foodies for its spicy flavor. The mushrooms grow in coniferous forests and in the grass alongside herbs. Though the Chanterelles come in white, yellow, and orange varieties, the golden color is typically preferred.
Chanterelle mushrooms are expensive because they need specific growing conditions. A heavy rainfall followed by several days of heat and humidity is what helps 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 are incredibly pricey, as they cost about $224 per pound.
5. Morels - $50 -$200 per pound.
Morels are among the most coveted fungi by mushroom enthusiasts, requiring skillful foraging to find and cultivate. 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 required to cultivate morels, fresh morels found exclusively in the wild are only available for a limited period each year. Consequently, their seasonal availability and scarcity contribute to the demand that keeps their market price high, rendering them one of the costliest mushrooms in the United States.
4. Black Truffles - $1,000 - $2,000 per pound.
Black truffles are the most renowned of the truffle varieties, and despite their relatively lower cost than white truffles, they still are still quite pricey.
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.
Most black truffles are procured and used by chefs at upscale restaurants to create delectable dishes – only adding to their exclusivity and culinary prestige.
3. Matsutake - $1,000 to $2,000 per pound.
The Matsutake mushroom is a form of fungi that traditionally signaled the beginning of autumn. Matsutake which means “pine mushroom” in Japanese — is prized in many other Asian countries for its scarcity and distinct spicy flavor, which manifests with a tinge of cinnamon and cypress.
Prices range from $1,000 to $2,000 per pound; however, climate change has begun to impact the cultivation of this rare delicacy. Because there are fewer trees, there are fewer mushrooms beneath them. Unfortunately, methods for cultivating these mushrooms have not been developed yet, which increases the price and now makes the Matsutake an endangered species.
2. European White Truffle - $4,200 - $5,050 per pound.
At more than $4,000 per pound, European White truffles are the second most expensive mushroom in the world.
What makes truffles so very expensive is that they are difficult to harvest and hard to find because they grow underground. Truffle hunters search through places in Europe - like Italy and France seeking this prized delicacy. And because they are so difficult to find, a black market has emerged – with thieves abducting the dogs that sniff truffles and people breaking into restaurants to find the European royalty of all truffles.
While inferior-quality truffles have flooded the market in the Far East, the European version is still considered the finest.
1. Yartsa Gunbu – $50,000 per pound.
Yartsa gunbu, which grows from the bodies of ghost moth caterpillars, holds the distinction of being the most expensive fungus in the world and among the most profound of symbolic wealth and status. These spores have been mentioned as far back as the 15th century in a Tibetan medicinal text entitled "An Ocean of Aphrodisiacal Qualities" referring to their aphrodisiacal qualities.
Ironically, this most expensive fungus is not made from a mushroom or truffle but a dead caterpillar fungus that grows in high elevations (typically above 10,000 feet) in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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