Maitake Mushroom
Maitake Mushroom
Maitake Mushroom
Maitake Mushroom

Maitake Mushroom

Grifola frondosa

Maitake mushroom is an amazing adaptogen that will help boost your immunity. It also helps lower high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Maitake "Hen of the Woods" is also used for anti-tumor properties.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Hen of the Woods
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Fruit
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About Maitake Mushroom

Maitake mushroom- the dancing mushroom.

Maitake mushroom won this name when the Japanese danced out of happiness upon finding it in the wild. This legendary dancing diva is also known as hen-of-the-woods, sheep’s head, or ram’s head and belongs to the family Meripilaceae.

Maitake mushroom is a perennial fungus that grows from the sclerotium. It is found in the typical old forests, specifically at the base of decaying oak, elms, or maple trees. Maitake mushrooms are a rare sight in the forests which accounts for its price that comes along with it. 

Maitake mushroom appears like a bunch of clustered and flattened caps that overlap each other, reminiscent of chicken feathers.  The fruiting body measures 4 to 36 inches. The underside of the mushrooms depicts cauliflowers where there are numerous pores.

Maitake mushroom is packed with antioxidants, beta-glucans, Vitamin B, C and D, copper, potassium, amino acids, and fiber. All the medicinal uses of Maitake are backed by science. Maitake is chemopreventive, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-diabetic, and antihypertensive. It also boosts the falling immunity that makes it perfect for the season of sniffs and coughs.

Maitake is also celebrated in the kitchens because of its fleshy texture and earthy, spicy flavor. It can be grilled, roasted, sautéd, baked, fried, and tossed into salads or garnished over soups. 

Growing

Maitake mushrooms are found naturally in old forests but that does not imply that they cannot thrive at home. Maitake can surely be cultivated in your backyard but the process is tedious. However, patience is a virtue.

A backyard Maitake growth requires a recreated natural environment for cheerful development. A seasoned log is soaked in cold water for few hours, dried, drilled, and inoculated with the spawn. The drilled holes are then sealed with cheese wax to avoid contamination of the log. The fungus slowly colonizes in a damp outdoor area.

Maitake fruiting bodies emerge out in about six weeks if the process is carried out flawlessly.

The lifecycle of Maitake can be broadly divided into three stages:

  • Spawn run
  • Primordia initiation
  • Fruiting body development

Spawn run

Spawn run is the vegetative mycelial phase in which a growth period is chased by the maturation of metabolic activities. These series of processes can bear low light but prospers when receiving increased light, copious oxygen, and high humidity. The Maitake spawn run promotes primordial initiation.

Primordia initiation

Primordia are dark grayish, ball-like mounds that develop on the surface of mycelium and pave the path for the formation of a fruiting body.

Fruiting body Development

The development of the fruiting body is itself branched into 3 stages:

1. Brain stage

The grayish-black primordia further grow into convoluted folds that depict the picture of a brain.

2. Cauliflower stage

The convoluted folds initiate unfolding all the while overlapping the young caps to form a cluster. The lateral stem elongates and becomes highly branched and each branch is connected to a young cap on the upper portion. The whole phenomenon manifests the scenario of cauliflower, so this stage is named after it.

3. Cluster flower stage

The mushroom continues to take after the cauliflower stage and keeps growing, framing a clustered flower. In the course of this morphogenesis, the color of the mushroom lightens and it becomes white.

Harvesting

Maitake mushrooms usually come around in autumn. They are advised to harvest before the white basidiospores launch themselves. A clear sign that welcomes the harvest is the drooping caps and stems.

The harvest must not be delayed as the fruiting body softens and renders foul fishy smell.

Maitake mushroom fruit body is harvested by employing a sharp knife.

Maitake mushrooms require rigorous cleaning after which they are transferred to a zip lock bag and kept in the freezer. This way, Maitake mushrooms can last for 6 months.

Usage

Maitake mushrooms are enjoyed in several ways as its benefits are drawing more and more attention from the folks.

  • Tincture- Fresh Maitake mushroom is topped with grain alcohol for 6 weeks to make Maitake tincture.
  • Tea- Fresh or frozen Maitake mushroom is steeped in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes to make Maitake tea.
  • Decoction- Fresh or frozen Maitake mushrooms are decocted with water. 
  • Syrups- Fresh or frozen Maitake mushroom can be used for formulating syrups.