What are Chestnut Mushrooms? (Everything you need to know)

Chestnut mushrooms are edible mushrooms that are very manageable to cultivate. With the scientific name of Pholiota adiposa, chestnut mushrooms have a physical appearance akin to the white button and cremini mushrooms; however, they have tan-colored caps and a far better texture and flavor. This resource will better explain what chestnut mushrooms are and how you can grow them in the comforts of your residence.

What are the characteristics of chestnut mushrooms?

The chestnut mushrooms are called by other names. They are also known as cinnamon cap mushrooms or the brick top, according to the reddish-brown color of their caps. In Japan, chestnut mushrooms are called numerisugitake mushrooms.

The given scientific name of the chestnut mushroom is Pholiota adiposa. The scientific name of the chestnut mushroom describes how it looks. Adiposa is derived from the Latin words "adeps," which means lard or grease, and "Pholiota," referring to scaly.

Similar to the white mushroom but lighter in color is the chestnut mushroom. The most often grown mushroom in the Netherlands is the chestnut mushroom, which is similar to the white mushroom but lighter in color. It grows at a lower temperature than the white mushroom does.

Some people confuse chestnut mushrooms with darker cremini mushrooms. For this reason, here are a few signs to watch out for to distinguish (Pholiota adiposa) chestnut mushrooms from somewhat darker cremini mushrooms:

Stems: Chestnut mushrooms demonstrate round, light yellow to tan stems 1 to 2.5 inches tall (2.5 to 6 cm) in diameter, with scales that frequently combine at the base where they adhere to the substrate.

Gills: The chestnut mushrooms consist of pale yellow to tan gills that turn reddish-brown to orange as spores form.

Caps: The convex, brownish-yellow to rust-orange caps of chestnut mushrooms have a diameter of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) with brown scales denser in the center. On the other hand, the scales of younger chestnut mushrooms are covered in frilly white veil fragments.

Where do chestnut mushrooms grow?

This mushroom species prefer to grow outside where hardwood planks are spread out on the ground like a raft. But when you grow chestnut mushrooms indoors, they enjoy supplemental sawdust in bags when you make a small gap at the bag's side or top.

Being both saprotrophic and parasitic, it's interesting to note that chestnut mushrooms may grow on both living and dead trees; however, they usually do best on decaying and dead wood. They take a little longer to mature once they start pinning because they prefer low-temperature conditions. Seven to ten days after the primordia (pins) have formed, you can expect a harvest of the chestnut mushrooms.

Chestnut mushrooms are generally found in regions of the United States and Europe because they thrive in chilly weather. With the right tools, these mushrooms can be grown everywhere, even if your location does not fit under the definition of a cold region.

What are other mushrooms similar to chestnut mushrooms?

Whenever you are out there foraging for chestnut mushrooms, there is a high chance of seeing many look-alikes of the chestnut mushrooms. Here are some of them for you to be familiar with:

Dark honey fungus (Armillaria mellea)

Similar to chestnut mushrooms, the black honey fungus grows in clusters and contains scales. But their point of difference is that chestnut mushrooms have a few scales at the stem's base, while black honey fungus stems are darker and have many more scales.

Dark honey fungi contain white spores, which means their gills do not darken as they grow, which is another difference.

Sheathed woodtuft (Kuehneromyces mutabilis)

Other popular names for this attractive species include Brown Stew Fungus and Two-Toned Pholiota because of the hygrophanous cap's bright cinnamon-orange color when wet and light tan color when dry.

This class of mushrooms looks like chestnut mushrooms due to their brown color, yet they differ on the stems because the latter has a light-colored stem.

Shaggy scalycap (Pholiota squarrosa)

The next mushroom is a widespread fungus that grows on various hardwoods and conifers in North America, Canada, and Europe. Compared to the chestnut mushroom, it often has larger caps and stem scales and is paler on average.

Depending on the source, the shaggy scalycap is said to smell like garlic, radish, skunk, or onion or have a taste that is strongly reminiscent of radish.

Are chestnut mushrooms edible?

Yes, chestnut mushrooms are eligible to be eaten. In fact, the mushrooms are of similar taste to the shiitake mushrooms, yet it is milder, accompanied by a unique nutty flavor. Hence, the name chestnut mushroom.

With the exception of the cluster's base, where the fungus attaches, which is a little rough, the entire mushroom is edible. Before the mushrooms finish their growth, choose the young shoots for their tenderest feel.

When quickly sautéed, this mushroom has a nutty flavor and a somewhat crispy texture. If you pluck the chestnuts too late and they are overly mature, their stems will soften as you cook them longer than usual.

What are the nutritional benefits of chestnut mushrooms?

When they initially start to develop, chestnut mushrooms resemble flowers. Once again resembling a mushroom, they turn a rustic brown or chestnut hue and have a hairy or scaly top. In actuality, the Latin words for adiposa and Pholiota both signify grease. That's because wet caps may get slimy.

In North America, Europe, and Asia, Pholiota adiposa grows naturally. It has long been valued in traditional medicine for its potential in healthcare. Several benefits are listed below:

  1. Abundant in essential amino acids
  2. Plenty with vitamins
  3. Rich in proteins, bioactive enzymes, and trace elements

Studies reveal that the chestnut mushroom can also deliver several other potent boosts to our wellbeing, which is why medical research is continuing to explore deeper into its advantages.

A 100g serving of chestnut mushrooms, known as Numerisugitake in Japan, contains a complete breakdown of all the amino acids, minerals, and vitamins in the Food Composition Database.

I will discuss more of the nutritional benefits of chestnut mushrooms below.

Presence of adenosine

Adenosine was extracted from the chestnut mushroom in one study, and the extract that was later determined to be adenosine showed strong anti-inflammatory properties. Other therapeutic mushrooms, such as Cordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps) and Ganoderma lucidum, include the active component adenosine, a molecule found in human cells that are recognized for its "cardioprotective" benefits (Lingzhi or Reishi).

It has been demonstrated that adenosine shields the heart from the adverse effects of insufficient oxygen and blood flow. Prescription medicine for a heart ailment characterized by bouts of a rapid heartbeat is also made from it.

According to the findings of this particular study, the adenosine found in the chestnut mushroom extract may not only have cardioprotective benefits but also have the potential to reduce inflammation. Researchers concluded that this might have future pharmaceutical or therapeutic relevance.

May function as an antioxidant

According to a different study, a Pholiota adiposa extract may be utilized as an antioxidant to improve the immune system's reaction. Your cells may benefit from antioxidant protection against free radicals, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.

Potential antitumor effects

According to yet another study, a polysaccharide isolated from the Pholiota adiposa mycelia showed strong anticancer effects.

Like with all mushrooms, the lectins promote the body's defense processes by reducing inflammation and cancer, among other things. Due to their anticancer and immunomodulatory properties, fungus lectins are gaining interest from scientists. Studies investigating its antibacterial qualities are also ongoing.

How are chestnut mushrooms grown?

Considered as a cousin of the mucky Nameko mushroom (Pholiota nameko), the chestnut mushroom is slowly taking the spotlight for its nutty umami taste.

The easiest way to obtain fresh chestnut mushrooms is to produce your own because there are currently a handful of commercial mushroom growers.

Now, the good news is that there are a few different techniques you can use to produce chestnut mushrooms at home, and they are relatively straightforward to grow.

In this section, I will share with you known steps on how chestnut mushrooms can be included in your mushroom garden.

Step 1: Obtain the Chestnut Mushroom Spawn

Apparently, acquiring the spawn or spores of the chestnut mushroom is the first step to take. The underside of the mushroom cap is the part of the fungi where you can obtain mushroom spores, which are the "seeds" or reproductive bodies of mushrooms.

Each spore has every component needed to create a new fungus. A network of cells known as the mycelium is being formed as the spores germinate. The substrate, a substance that fosters and supports their growth, receives this mycelium. The term "spawn" points to the entire structure (mycelium plus substrate).

Step 2: Select the Substrate You Will Use

Simply described, the substrate is the "soil" or growing medium in which your mushrooms will grow over time.

To cultivate chestnut mushrooms, growers typically employ one of three known substrate types that are available today. It will typically already be in the substrate, depending on how you chose to purchase your spawn:

  1. Sawdust spawn: This is sawdust that has been sterilized and infused with chestnut mycelium. It is perfect for logs and outdoor mushroom beds. When put onto an appropriate substrate, they have many more inoculation points, which is the main benefit of employing them. Because of the tiny and abundant sawdust particles, this is primarily the case. (Sawdust is the most manageable substrate to inoculate correctly. Thus, I advise using it at least the first time you try this technique.)
  2. Plug spawn: Hardwood dowels that have been inoculated and colonized with mushroom mycelium make up this type of substrate, which is also known as dowel spawn or simply "mushroom plugs." For outdoor mushroom cultivation, the plugs are used to inoculate hardwood logs and stumps.
  3. Grain spawn: Sawdust is replaced with sterilized grain in this kind of spawn. Although you can use wheat, corn, and other varieties of cereal grains, millet and rye are the most frequent forms of grain used with mycelium cultures. If you want to grow your mushrooms indoors, grain is an excellent alternative because it is more nutrient-rich than sawdust.

Step 3: Introduce the Spawn Into the Chosen Substrate

Inoculation is another name for this step. When you spread your chestnut mushroom spawn on your substrate is when it happens. As already known by many growers, the substrate will typically arrive with the chestnut mycelium already colonized if you are using a growth kit. For this reason, follow these:

  1. Remove the cardboard box containing the plastic-wrapped substrate block.
  2. To reveal the substrate, cut a 6-inch slit into the plastic bag with a sharp knife.
  3. Depending on the block's size, place it cut-side down in a bowl of water and soak for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Repackage the block within the cardboard box, slit side towards the environment. To let air in, the box ought to have a window.

If you are the type who wants a bit of a challenge in growing chestnut mushrooms, then you can prepare your own substrate by yourself. To do this, you can purchase spawn individually, choose the substrate you want to use, and then inoculate your substrate yourself. But of course, this recommendation suits experienced growers.

Lastly, I know that certain growers have succeeded in growing chestnut mushrooms with a substrate comprised of compost, peat moss, and potting soil. To employ this technique:

  1. Fill a container with an equal mixture of sterile compost, potting soil, and peat moss.
  2. Sprinkle water over the mixture to moisten it before scattering the chestnut spores over the soil's top.
  3. Poke holes on the surface and cover with transparent plastic wrap to allow air to pass through.

Step 4: Incubation of Your Spawn

The spawn needs time to develop through the substrate after inoculation. Incubation is the name given to this process. Leap off, or the first time the mycelium jumps off the spawn into the new substrate, marks the beginning of incubation.

In this stage, you can follow these simple yet effective steps:

  1. Place the inoculated substrate in a dark area
  2. To keep it moist, apply water by misting the substrate daily.
  3. Avoid exposing the substrate to direct sunlight.
  4. Maintain a temperature range of 60°F and 80°F (15°C to 27°C)

The mycelium colonizes the substrate during incubation. The process could range from a few weeks to a few months. You should see a solid white mycelium mat covering its surface by the time it's finished. This indicates that it is prepared to bear fruit.

Step 5: Fruiting the Substrate

You should see mushroom pinheads growing on the surface after a few days. After you first notice the pins, it will typically take 7 to 10 days for them to mature into full-sized chestnut mushrooms.

At this point, you should ensure that the mushrooms receive enough airflow. Insufficient air will cause mushrooms to suffocate since they create carbon dioxide.

Moisture is necessary for chestnut mushrooms to grow. Consider using a plastic waste bag as a humidity tent if the area where you grow your mushrooms is arid. Make sure to cut several ventilation holes in the plastic to allow for proper airflow.

Step 6: Harvesting of Chestnut Mushrooms

Your mushrooms should be harvest-ready a week or so after the pinheads first appear. It takes a gentle twisting or pulling motion to remove mature chestnut mushrooms from the substrate they are growing on. Avoid removing too much dirt to prevent the growth of other mushrooms.

You'll have a new crop ready for harvest in another week. As the substrate is used up, the successive harvests will get smaller and smaller. Then, you'll either need to buy a new growing kit or make a fresh spawn.

How do you prepare chestnut mushrooms after harvesting them?

If you do not want to use them immediately, chestnut mushrooms should be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days, just like other mushrooms.

They will last the longest if stored correctly in a breathable bag or container on a shelf in the refrigerator instead of the bottom drawer.

Before placing your chestnut mushrooms in the refrigerator, avoid slicing or rinsing them, as this frequently causes them to deteriorate more quickly.

Instead, wash and trim them right before you intend to cook them.

However, drying or freezing your chestnut mushrooms may be a smart option if you wish to store them for use at a later time.

What do chestnut mushrooms taste like?

Chestnut mushrooms are known to grow in clusters similar to oyster mushrooms, but they have a distinct "nutty" flavor and a remarkably similar taste (only milder) to shiitake. Chewing chestnut mushrooms is a satisfying experience. Like asparagus, they have a crisp stem that is retained after cooking.

How are chestnut mushrooms cooked?

Chestnut mushrooms are adaptable and ideal for foods that need longer cooking durations, including soups and stews. This is because the mushrooms maintain their shape and texture and do not easily shrink like many other mushrooms.

Additionally, it can be sautéed in butter or oil and served on salads or spring rolls. Chestnut mushrooms can also bring innovation to your regular egg omelets.

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