In Japan, the "Hon-Shimeji" (meaning "genuine shimeji") a.k.a. Beech mushroom is a delicacy that costs up to $461 per pound or $28.84 per ounce (SEK 8,000 per kilo). Henrik Sundberg, a Gothenburg University student, has proved that exactly the same mushroom grows wild, free and abundantly in Sweden.

The first clue about this culinary sensation emerged two years ago, and when this news finally gets around, Sundberg expects it will get a great deal of attention in Japan.

The mushroom genus Lyophyllum consists of numerous species including Lyophyllum shimeji, a variety which was previously thought to grow solely in eastern Asia.

"Using molecular procedures, we have been able to show that the Norrland fungus is identical to the Japanese," relates Sundberg. Some ten years back, researchers also discovered that the Swedish Tricholoma nauseosum was identical to another expensive Japanese species, Tricholoma matsutake.

So far, the Japanese hon-shimeji mushroom has been found in pine heaths and rock outcrops around Umeå, Gällivare and also in Dalarna. Educated guesswork suggests that the spread far and wide from Scandinavia to China and Japan, and may also be found in the future in Scotland, Canada, Central Europe and the USA.

Visually similar to its closest relatives, the Swedish hon-shimeji probably forms buds from August until frost arrives. Sundberg's work is recorded in the forthcoming issue of the Swedish magazine, "Svensk Mykologisk ."

Source: Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg