Enokitake, also Enokidake, Enoki are long, thin white mushrooms used in East Asian cuisine (such as that of China, Japan and Korea). These mushrooms are cultivars of Flammulina velutipes also called golden needle mushroom. Wild forms differing in colour, texture, and sliminess are called winter mushrooms, velvet foot, or velvet stem among other names.
The mushroom is available fresh or canned, the fresh mushroom being nicer. They are traditionally used for soups, but can also be used for salads and other dishes. They have a crisp texture. The mushroom can be refrigerated for about one week. Experts recommend fresh enoki specimens with firm, white, shiny caps, avoiding those that have slimy or brownish stalks.
The mushroom naturally grows on the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree, called enoki in Japanese, but also on some other trees as for example mulberry and persimmon trees. There is a significant difference in appearance between the wild and the cultivated mushrooms. Cultivated mushrooms are not exposed to light resulting in a white colour, whereas wild mushrooms usually have a dark brown colour. The cultivated mushrooms are grown in a high CO2 environment to produce long thin stems, whereas wild mushrooms produce a much shorter and thicker stem.
The variety available in the supermarket is always cultivated, usually in a plastic bottle or a vinyl bag for 30 days at 15°C and 70% humidity, on a substrate of sawdust or corn cobs, and a number of additional ingredients. Afterwards, the mushroom is grown for another 30 days in a slightly cooler but more humid environment. The growth is constricted in a paper cone to force the mushroom to grow long and thin. Mushrooms available in supermarkets often still show the impression of the bottle around the base.