Shiitake mushrooms may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. It’s best to cook shiitake mushrooms before serving, as there have been cases of skin irritation from eating raw shiitakes.
Our planet is home to more than 2,000 known edible varieties of mushrooms, but the shiitake is among the most widely consumed and highly regarded for its medicinal qualities. The name comes from the Japanese words for tree and mushroom—hints at how shiitake grows. In the 13th century, farmers developed techniques for cultivating the fungus on logs to replicate symbiotic conditions in the wild, where shiitakes thrive in proximity to trees. It’s possible that shiitakes may have been growing in the wild for many years prior to the innovation, perhaps as far back as the age of the dinosaurs. Did plant-loving stegosaurus like to munch on shiitakes? We may never know for sure, but one fact is certain: shiitake offers plenty of nutrition to humans. Shiitake even contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient typically only available in meat and seafood. Shiitakes are sold fresh or dried. Fresh shiitake are free of wrinkles, slime, and dried stems, with supple caps that spring to the touch. Dried shiitake are dehydrated and, as a result, are lightweight. Shiitake vary in size, with larger caps offering deeper umami flavor.
★Tip: Never feed your baby foraged mushrooms unless you are an expert mycologist, as there are plenty of poisonous look-a-like species growing in the wild.
Riley, 7 months, eats shiitake mushrooms...
Reed, 7 months, eats finely chopped cooked shiitake mushrooms for the first time....
Zeke, 11 months, eats cooked shiitake mushrooms for the first time....
Yes. Shiitakes have multiple superpowers. First, they are one of the only plant-based sources of vitamin D and offer some vitamin B12 as well, making the mushrooms an excellent food for plant-based babies. Second, shiitakes possess types of dietary fiber that are not common in foods, as well as lots of other essential vitamins and minerals, including selenium to protect the immune system and zinc to power immunity, smell, and taste. Finally, shiitakes contain some phytonutrients that may offer antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
★Tip: Store fresh shiitakes in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 year. An unopened package of dried shiitakes keeps in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place (like your pantry or fridge, depending on where you live) for a year or more. Once a package of dried shiitake is open, use within 3 months.
Yes. Shiitake mushrooms can be chewy and challenging for new eaters to break down in their mouths. To reduce the risk, remove the stem and slice or chop the mushroom caps. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of a baby during mealtime.
No. Mushroom allergy is rare, although not unheard of.
There are, however, are a few considerations to keep in mind. First, raw and undercooked shiitake mushrooms contain a toxin called lentinan that can cause skin reactions in some individuals. The rash appears as red, itchy, linear streaks on the body, and in rare cases can be associated with fever, diarrhea, discomfort with swallowing, or tingling of the lips and extremities. Thoroughly cooking shiitakes breaks down the toxin and makes the mushrooms safe for consumption. Second, shiitake spores can be allergenic and can cause problems for people with sensitivities to airborne allergens or respiratory conditions like asthma. This is most likely to occur in individuals who handle raw mushrooms frequently. In rare cases, exposure to shiitake may trigger an asthma attack in susceptible individuals. Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called “pollen-food” allergy syndrome) may also be sensitive to mushrooms. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Finally, mushrooms contain chitin, a common carbohydrate found in crustaceans and insects that may contribute to an allergic response in some people.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future meals.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Mix finely chopped, cooked shiitake mushrooms into foods that are easy for baby to pick up and munch on, such as omelet fingers, or mix into soft, scoopable foods like mashed vegetables, porridges like congee or jook, or yogurt. To introduce shiitakes in isolation of other foods, simply sauté the mushrooms and offer chopped pieces in a bowl that suctions to the table to make it easy for baby to scoop up with hands.
Continue to fold chopped, cooked shiitakes into omelets, bean dishes, and other foods as desired. At this age baby’s pincer grasp will be developing, enabling them to pick up smaller pieces of food, like sliced shiitake mushroom caps on their own. This is also a great age to introduce homemade ramen noodles.
Offer cooked shiitake mushrooms and use them liberally in recipes to add umami flavor. Experiment with substitutions in recipes, swapping soy sauce for shiitakes to cut down on the salt, or swapping animal meat for shiitakes to add comparable flavor and texture.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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