Friday, April 17, 2009

Japan's $200 Mushrooms


Source: Japan Guidebook

What's the most expensive mushroom in the world? The title belongs to matsutake mushrooms, Japan's answer to the black truffle. While prices are not quite as high as the most expensive truffles, who's rich flavor is sought in high societies around the world, top quality matsutake retail for a respectable $1,000 per pound.

Why are matsutake mushrooms so expensive?
One reason matsutake have become so expensive is that while Japan's household income increased exponentially over the passed 50 years, the number of matsutake mushrooms harvested in the country has decreased sharply due to the introduction of a bug that kills the trees they grow under. With more and more money to spend on less and less mushrooms, matsutake have achieved an almost mythical status in Japan.

More than just a mushroom, matsutake are related to the Japanese symbol for longevity. They are synonymous with the autumn season, and for many people in Japan, where importance has longed been placed upon the change of season, the mushrooms have become one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be Japanese. Another example would be sakura cherry blossoms in the spring.

Matsutake are often given as gift baskets to show appreciation or curry favor, and companies are happy to lavish the most expensive ones on high-end clients and business partners.

Wow that's pretty crazy. Anyone ever had one? Is it good? Or just a delicacy? I remember they had a mushroom battle on Iron Chef! That would have cost thousands of dollars!

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