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Rabbi Dovid Cohen
Administrative Rabbinical Coordinator of the cRc

February 2009

Button, Oyster, Padi Straw and Shitake mushrooms are commonly eaten raw and therefore do not require bishul Yisroel.1   The status of Chanterelles (Golden), Cloud Ear, Mixed Wild, Morels, Porcini, Portobello and Wood Ear mushrooms is more complicated, as it appears that vegetarians and others who are used to eating mushrooms will eat these raw, but those who are not used to these varieties prefer the cooked taste.

At first glance it would appear that since eating these mushrooms cooked is merely a matter of preference, as opposed to other foods where the raw version is completely inedible, the mushrooms should not require bishul Yisroel, based on Shach 113:19.  This view would be supported by the presence of a noticeable minority of people (i.e. vegetarians) who in fact eat these raw.  On the other hand, it may be that as relates to these issues the vegetarians and non-vegetarians are viewed as belonging to different “communities”, in which the former considers it edible raw and the latter does not.  This question requires further consideration.

Another mushroom question which must be investigated is whether some or all of these varieties are infested with bugs, and how they should be cleaned or checked.

As an ingredient, dehydrated mushrooms are free from bishul akum concerns because they are typically not cooked before (or during) the dehydration process and are essentially sold raw with the end user taking responsibility for cooking them.  As such, the Rav HaMachshir at the plant cooking the dehydrated mushrooms would have to decide whether they are considered edible raw (and exempt from bishul Yisroel) or not.  [As with other items, dehydration of mushrooms dries any bugs that might have been present, rendering then not-forbidden.]

1 Some health officials caution that all mushrooms, including button mushrooms, must be cooked before eating in order to render them digestible.  One such expert wrote the following in response to my query:
With the possible exception of truffles, no mushrooms should be consumed raw – and that most definitely includes the ubiquitous sliced Agaricus found in salad bars. The cell walls of fungi contain Chitin which is indigestible – for this and other reasons (heat labile toxins in some species) cooking is important for all mushrooms. Note: Some mushrooms are toxic even after cooking so not all mushroom toxins are destroyed by cooking. Cooked mushrooms can be exceptionally nutritious but raw mushrooms actually block nutrient uptake.
I do not know enough to discuss the veracity of this statement, but it would appear to be moot as relates to our discussion, since the common practice of not cooking them renders them “edible raw” for bishul Yisroel purposes.