Matsutake (from Japanese “pine mushroom”) is especially appreciated in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and North American cuisines for its specific pine aroma and exquisite taste. The Japanese are especially fond of this mushroom due to its rarity, unique taste, strong cinnamon-like aroma, and health benefits. Matsutake is the third most expensive mushroom in the world after Yartsa Gunbu ($50,000 per pound), and European white truffle ($1500-4500 per pound). But why is matsutake so expensive?
Why are matsutake mushrooms so expensive? Matsutake mushrooms are so expensive due to their rarity and difficult cultivation. They grow in the roots of red pine forests that are under the threat of worms and have been rapidly shrinking. Matsutake is also harvested once a year and is very sensitive to weather changes.
Matsutake mushrooms are quite difficult to find (fruiting bodies are almost always perfectly hidden under a layer of foliage), which makes the price skyrocket. Another reason why matsutake is the third most expensive mushroom is that the Japanese mushroom availability has plummeted over the past 50 years due to the pine nematode (ringworm) Bursaphelenchus xylophilus.
The annual harvest of matsutake in Japan does not exceed 1000 tons per year, so a single matsutake mushroom can cost up to $100, and the price can go up to two or more thousand dollars per kilogram. Interestingly, matsutake is also grown in the USA, Canada, China, and South Korea, however, the Japanese claim that those mushrooms are nothing like real matsutake grown in the red pine forests in Japan.
How Much Is a Matsutake Mushroom? Matsutake Mushroom Price
How much do matsutake mushrooms cost? As of now, the matsutake mushroom price per pound in the USA is $900-$1200, which is a 10% increase from 2020, when matsutake cost $800-$1050 per pound. The price keeps growing since the red pine forests where matsutake grows are under the threat of worms and are shrinking.
Matsutake mushrooms grow only under certain weather conditions. The daytime temperature should not exceed 26°C, and the nighttime temperature should not fall below 15°C. Also, matsutake requires more than 100 mm of precipitation within 20 days to sprout. Matsutake is usually sold for 3 weeks at the end of September and the beginning of October period. If there is a lot of rain, matsutake starts sprouting at the end of August. Since matsutake is very sensitive to weather changes and transportation, it needs to be consumed 2-3 days after picking. All this contributes to a ridiculously high price of the mushroom and makes it the third most expensive one.
What is the matsutake mushroom price in 2022? As of 2022, matsutake mushrooms in the USA cost $900-1200 per pound or $1800-2400 per kg. Matsutake is the third most expensive mushroom after Yartsa Gunbu (a whooping of $50,000 per pound) and European white truffle ($1500-4500 per pound).
Matsutake Mushroom Taste and Smell
Matsutake is a delicious mushroom with unique taste and smell properties and can be eaten raw. It has an elastic pulp texture, a complex earhy, buttery taste and pine-like aroma. It combines the smell of spices (cinnamon), fruits (pear, apple) and a slightly bitter taste of pine resin, for which it is extremely appreciated by gourmets.
What do matsutake mushrooms taste like? Matsutake mushrooms have a strong, piney, earthy, and cinnamon-like taste that reminds of rotten wet soil. Some note that matsutake tastes fishy and has a pungent smell reminiscent of dirty laundry. Matsutake has a rich buttery and creamy flavor when cooked properly.
What does matsutake smell like? According to an American mycologist David Arora, matsutake smells like dirty laundry and rotten wet soil. Other mycologists describe matsutake smell as pungent, spicy, cinnamon-like with earthy and buttery notes. Matsutake smell strongly depends on the storage conditions.
Cooking matsutake requires a special approach, since with strong heat treatment (as with drying and freezing), they lose their delicate taste and unique ccinnamon-like aroma. Matsutake is often used as a side dish. In traditional Japanese restaurants, this is, for example, a rice dish with diced chicken and matsutake mushrooms. Matsutake mushrooms are often added to soups, as well as salads and meat dishes. They are cooked together with rice and chicken or fish. Matsutake can also be dried and pickled, but it is not very common. Oftetimes, matsutake is eaten raw to preserve its useful properties.
Matsutake Health Benefits
Not only matsutake have a wonderful taste and aroma, but they are very healthy, rich in potassium, magnesium and folic acid. These mushrooms lower cholesterol and are good for immunity and are characterized with antiviral and anticancer properties. Matsutake also has antihypertensive (lowers blood pressure), hypoglycemic (antidiabetic activity), sedative and antihypoxic effect. Complex polysaccharide-protein complexes of matsutake inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Matsutake is used to treat the diseases of the genitourinary system and joints, external diseases (bedsores, bites, wounds), gastric ulcers, infertility, arteriosclerosis. Matsutake is also excellent natural cosmetic. Its flesh not only makes the skin light and removes unwanted pigmentation, but also improves its overall condition.
Matsutake is prized not only for its taste and smell, but also for its medicinal properties. Matsutake health benefits include:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Tumor prevention
- Blood pressure normalization
- Virus fighting
In Chinese folk medicine matsutake is also used as an analgesic, sedative, as well as for diseases of the digestive system. This mushroom has also been used in cosmetology as a brightening agent, in addition, it has a healing effect on the skin as a whole.
Matsutake Musroom Cost FAQ
Are matsutake mushrooms expensive? Matsutake mushrooms are expensive due to their rarity, difficult cultivation, sensitivity to temperature changes, unique and rich nutty, spicy, earthy flavor with a meaty texture and pungent cinnamon-like aroma. Matsutake is often given as a gift to influential people and high-ranking officials.
How much do matsutake mushrooms sell for? Matsutake mushrooms are sold for a whooping of $900-$1200 per pound as the roots of red pines they grow on are under the threat of worms and the forests have shrunk significantly over the last 10 years. Also, matsutake is very difficult to cultivate due to its sensitivity to weather changes.