Hippocrates first mentioned mushrooms when he wrote about their medicinal value in 400 B.C. The first mention of mushroom cultivation, distinct from a chance appearance in the field, was in l652. Unfortunately, they were described as excellent for “making into compresses for ripening boils” but not as good to eat. In l707, a French botanist wrote about mushrooms as “originating from a horse.” He went on further to note, “Spores upon germination developed into a fluff, this fluff, planted into horse manure and covered with soil, would grow mushrooms.” The first record of year-round commercial production was in l780 when a French gardener began to cultivate mushrooms in the underground quarries near Paris. After the Civil War, gardeners introduced mushroom growing to North America by using dark areas underneath greenhouse benches to grow mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms have been enjoyed for centuries in Asia because of their health-promoting properties. Now consumers in Western countries are enjoying Shiitakes because of their unique culinary characteristics. Shiitake mushrooms can be found on supermarket shelves nationwide and are an excellent source of selenium, a very good source of iron, and are good sources of vitamin C, protein, and dietary fiber.