Matsutake

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

matsutake a Japanese name meaning ‘pine mushroom’. This fungus, Tricholoma matsutake, is so named because it grows in Japanese red pine forests in the autumn. It is dark brown in colour, with a meaty stem, and may measure 25 cm (10") in both height and width.

T. ponderosum, the ‘white matsutake’ of NW America, a close relation, is also known as the pine mushroom since it too is found under conifers in the autumn. It is slightly smaller, has a sticky white cap with small yellow-brown scales in its centre, white gills, and an aroma resembling that of the true matsutake. Marteka (1980) records that:

each year in the large Japanese-American community in Seattle, a contest is held to find the largest white matsutake … The window of Sagamiya’s confectionery shop on Seattle’s South Main Street displays the brownish-white mycological contestants that compete for top honor. Specimens weighing 1 or 2 pounds are not infrequent.