Usually found growing in clusters at the base of trees particularly the oak tree, the maitake mushroom has an appealing texture and taste best when young. However, the edibility of this mushroom changes with age becoming increasingly inedible because of it’s toughness.
Hen-of-the-woods grows from an underground tuber-like structure, about the size of a potato. The fruiting body, occurs in large clusters consisting of multiple grayish-brown caps which are often curled or spoon-shaped, with wavy margins.
Grifola frondosa is a polypore, a mushroom which disperses its spores from pores as opposed to gills. The pores are close together and tiny, almost difficult to see. The caps are firm and juicy. The stem is thick firm, white and branched.
Maitake mushrooms fruit anytime from early September to late October and seem to be triggered by the first cold nights of the end of Summer.
Uses of Maitake Mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake is a medicinal mushroom and is highly prized in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine. Research has indicated that whole maitake has the ability to regulate blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and both serum and liver lipids, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids, and may also be useful for weight loss.
Maitake presents a good source of dietry supplements since it is rich in minerals (such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium), various vitamins (B2, D2 and niacin), fibers and amino acids. Maitake have a massive reputation for their immune boosting and cancer fighting properties and one active constituent in Maitake that enhances immune activity is protein-bound beta-glucan compound.
Maitake(hen-of-the-woods) should not be confused with chicken of the woods or “sulphur shelf” another edible fungus in the same group.