I've been wanting to write about cordyceps for some time after learning about them from a travel show on television. The show focused on extremely committed foodies that travelled the globe in an effort to eat at as many Michelin star restaurants as they could. One Asian gentlemen visited a very high end restaurant in China and was offered a soup made from one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world; cordyceps.
The mushrooms grow from a parasitic fungus which infects an unfortunate host insect, the fungus ultimately kills its host and the emerging mushrooms use the nutrients from its body to grow. Although cordyceps will grow naturally in the wild on a range of insects, they are also commercially produced using caterpillars, the "farmed" cordyceps are much lower in price than those which are harvested from the wild.
After some research it appears that there really isn't a massive trend of eating cordyceps for their flavor (which is said to be mild), instead they are actually considered to be a very beneficial Chinese herbal medicine. There are numerous claims to the health benefits of eating cordyceps which include anti-ageing properties, improving kidney and heart function, even improving sexual function and libido. No wonder these mushrooms are some of the most expensive you can get!
Prices for wild harvested caterpillar cordyceps can reach anything from $1,500 to almost $10,000 USD per kilogram. They are often made into a health tonic soup which is popular in China, here is a link to a cordyceps and chicken soup recipe (if you’d like to give cordyceps a go) provided by Elena Guan, a food blogger based in Singapore. We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who’s tried cordyceps!