Velvet shank (Enoki) | Flammulina velutipes

by gone71 N

swe.: Enoki | nor.: Enoki | fin.: Talvijuurekas | dt.: Samtfußrübling, Enoki | sci. syn: Collyibia velutipes

The velvet shank is one of the most underrated mushrooms out there. Often simply called Enoki, it is actually not (any more) the same as the Enoki or Enokitake (F. filliformis) cultivated all over the world and especially in Japan – they look identical though. You might even recognize the one or the other from where you can sometimes buy Enoki as bundles of long and thin white mushrooms in supermarkets. This species were treated as identical until DNA analyses recently showed that they are two different species. Culinarily, however, this makes no difference.

Only few know, that the velvet shank is one of the most endurable winter mushrooms out there and even better – it is quite common.

Velvet shank (Enoki) | F. velutipes | photo © www.gone71.com

Velvet shank – a mushroom for the winter season

In their wild form, the velvet shank mushroom is a classic winter mushroom that usually begins its season after the first frost and can be found until spring. While most mushroom enthusiasts have long since retired in front of the warming stove, things are only really getting started for this one.
Its honey-coloured fruiting bodies often stand out in the monotonous winter landscape, hence the name Flammulina, the “little flame”. For the foraging purists it is THE mushroom that complements the mushroom year together with oyster mushrooms. Occasionally the fruiting bodies have literally to be freed of snow and ice during harvest.

Only harvest mushrooms that you can identify with 100% certainty! The consequences can be life threatening if you are wrong. If you have the slightest doubt: do not eat the mushroom! This is not a mushroom guide! For correct identification consult a mushroom expert.

Enoki
Velvet shank (Enoki) | F. velutipes can endure very cold temperatures | photo © www.gone71.com

How to find and identify velvet shanks?

Velvet shanks usually grow in clusters. As decomposers, they are mainly found on wood from dead or damaged deciduous trees. As its name suggest, the wild form features a velvet stem with a dark base, which, due to its tough, rubberlike structure, can only be used as mushroom powder when dried. The gills are white to slightly yellowish, while the cap, despite its honey-colour, has a slightly sticky consistency. Mushrooms that are exposed to particularly strong weather conditions and low temperatures are slightly darker in colour from the centre on outwards.

Velvet shank (Enoki) | F. velutipes | photo © www.gone71.com

diameter: 2 – 9 cm
months: September – April
colours: white-yellow stem with dark base | yellow-brown, honey-brown cap
habitat: deciduous trees
taste (raw): pleasnat, slightly sweet, good
consumption: cooked

Confusing Velvet shanks

Due to the cold season in which velvet shanks are found, confusion with other mushrooms is rather rare. However, we have found velvet shanks also in August. A potentially fatal doppelganger is the deadly poisonous funeral bell also known as the deadly skullcap (Galerina marginata) which is usually (but not always!) found on coniferous wood from the end of winter to late autumn.

The clearest distinguishing feature is the velvety and above all ringless stem, whitish to yellowish lamellae and the white spore powder of the velvet shank. It also has a rubbery stem that returns to its original position after compression.

The deadly skullcap (G. marginata) in contrast has brownish gills, rusty brown spore powder and a whitish fibrous stalk.

There are also other different species of velvet shanks such as F. fennae, but they have an almost identical appearance and are also edible. For normal mushrooms, they are hardly distinguishable.

When collecting the velvet shank, special care must be taken due to this possibility of substitution.

Velvet shank (Enoki) | F. velutipes on a tree stump | photo © www.gone71.com

Cultivation of velvet shanks & Enoki

This mushroom, or at least its Asian counterpart F. filliformis, has been cultivated for over a thousand years. First reports from China (900) state that ripe fruiting bodies were rubbed on tree stumps in order to promote the cultivation of this fungus. In Japan, it is the most cultivated mushroom next to shiitake and enjoys particular popularity there.

The fact that cultivated fruit bodies of enoki or velvet shanks usually have a completely different appearance from the wild form is due to the way they are grown. The long white shape of the mushroom is created by growing in narrow, tall containers, e.g. bottles under exclusion of light. Otherwise it is the same mushroom.

Velvet shanks like willow trees to grow | photo © www.gone71.com

Cultivating it yourself

The mushroom is very easy to cultivate. If you want to try it yourself, it is best to use willow wood. The wood should not be completely fresh and should be left to mature for a few weeks. Fresh wood usually contains natural antibiotic substances that do not allow the fungus to develop. Grow kits such as mycelium dowels can be obtained from your trusted dealer on the Internet. As a rule, holes are drilled into a tree trunk at regular intervals (usually 10 – 15 cm) and the dowels inserted.
However, it does not necessarily require mycelium from the dealer. If you have fresh fruiting bodies, you can try rubbing them into the cut of a trunk and then wait for fruiting bodies to appear in the following season.

Velvet shank (Enoki) | F. velutipes on a beech tree | photo © www.gone71.com

Velvet shanks in the kitchen

Finding something edible in nature during the barren winter months is not easy. That is why it is always a special joy for us when we discover these “little flames”, which the name Flammulina means, in the barren landscape.

It’s pleasant slightly sweet taste makes it an excellent protagonist for sauces and soups of all kinds. Velvet shanks can also be dried and stored very well.

Their close relative Enokitake is a very popular component in Asian cuisine. This mostly pure white-stemmed cultivated form is visually very different from the velvet shank as we know it, but said to be equivalent in use and taste.

In TCM it is used, among other things, to strengthen the immune system, to revitalize in a state of exhaustion and to prevent or accompany cancer.

71°

We have compiled this overview with the best of knowledge and belief, but do not claim to be complete and reserve the right to make errors.
Learn more about poisonous mushrooms and mushroom poisons here

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