Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 30 – It’s interesting how many more varieties of mushrooms there are available here in south China compared to the USA. These are “cao gu” or straw mushrooms. They are named that because they grow on straw from rice paddies. We’ve had these before, and the other night we had them again at a Chinese restaurant, so I decided to look them up. They are interesting because when we buy them, they are like little oval balls with squishy tops. When we cut them open, then we see the more recognizable mushroom shape. In reading, I’ve learned that these are in what is called the “egg stage,” before full maturity, and are considered “unpeeled”. They supposedly have more amino acids in this state, so that is how they are preferred. Once they mature, the cap of the mushroom bursts through the “veil” and they look like other mushrooms, they are then considered “peeled” straw mushrooms. The unpeeled ones are supposed to have a much stronger taste also, and if cooked without being cut open, will retain the juices inside until you bite into them. Straw mushrooms are supposed to be available in the USA in Asian stores, either canned or dried, and the packages supposedly say if they are peeled or unpeeled, but as with most canned foods, they have a different taste. We have always mixed them with other foods and thought they were good, but they do supposedly have a unique “earthy” taste form the straw they grow in. Has anyone tried them?