Japanese mushroom cultivators have produced a new hybrid of the highly-prized Matsutake mushroom that costs a fifth of the original.

Costing up to £50 (US$93.3) a piece, Matsutake mushrooms are notoriously difficult to cultivate but produce a fragrance that puts Japanese food gourmets into a trance.

Researchers at Hiroshima’s Prefectural Forestry Laboratory had been experimenting by crossing common shiitake mushrooms with the aristocratic Matsutake in the hope of producing an easier to grow crop. The latest hybrid is a success they say, with Japanese food critics reporting the mushrooms as having a good texture and much of the important fragrance. Japan consumes 3,000 tonnes of Matsutake per year, of which 1000 tonnes is domestically grown.