Fresh maitake mushrooms grown and distributed for wholesale by South Mill Champs

Maitake Mushrooms

The wild, rippling appearance of the maitake mushroom is often met with a head scratch. Yes, these mushrooms are edible, and yes, they are delicious. Maitakes have a distinctive aroma and a rich, woodsy flavor that becomes more intense when cooked. Its gray-brown, feather-like caps cluster around a central stem. It’s this unique appearance that has earned maitakes the nickname, hen of the woods.

The maitake mushroom has been strongly associated with the culinary scene in Japan and China, even though it remains a native variety in Europe and North America. In fact, the maitake is one of the more commonly used mushrooms in the world, in both fresh applications as well as health and wellness products due to its impressive health properties.

Although Japanese culture refers to it as the maitake, Europeans, and Americans sometimes call it the Hen of the Woods. Other lesser-used names include Sheep Head or King of the Mushrooms, due to its ability to grow upwards of 100 pounds.

Maitake mushrooms can be kept in your refrigerator in the original packaging. Once the package is opened the remaining mushrooms should be placed in a brown paper bag. This variety tends to hold up better in plastic materials than many other varieties.

Health Benefits of Maitake Mushrooms

The maitake mushroom ranks high among the healthy, low-calorie foods vital to a well-balanced diet. Research also indicates the Beta Glucan in maitake mushrooms can help support the immune system1.

Maitake Mushroom Nutritional Profile

This feathery-looking mushroom is more than a natural wonder. Its health benefits are plentiful and unique, from immune-supporting beta-glucan to bioactive polysaccharides that assist in the body’s efforts to ward off pathogens.

One (84 g) serving of maitake mushrooms delivers:

  • 25 Calories
  • 6 Grams of Carbohydrates
  • 2 Grams of Protein
  • 2 Gram of Dietary Fiber
  • 0 Grams of Fat
  • 236% DV of Vitamin D
  • 0 Milligrams Cholesterol
  • 0 Milligrams Sodium
  • 0 Grams of Sugar
  • Gluten-Free

One serving (84 grams, diced) of maitake mushrooms offers a full day’s recommended allowance of vitamin D (236%) and is a source of copper (15%) and niacin (28%).

Culinary Applications

While this mushroom might look intimidating, its usage is simple – add it to any food you would normally add mushrooms. Stir-fry, pasta, pizza, soup can all benefit from the umami flavor maitake mushrooms bring to the table.

There are many uses for maitake mushrooms in everyday meals. Try them:

  • Cooked Over Soba Noodles
  • Sautéed in Butter and Served over Chicken, Seafood or Steak
  • Roasted and Added to Pasta or Pizza
  • Grilled and Served Alongside Chicken
  • Battered and Deep Fried
  • Marinated, Sautéed and Served over Wild Rice

Since maitake mushrooms grow very close together in a cluster, the base of the stem can become thick and woody. Before cooking, trim the base of the stem and gently pull the mushrooms apart.

Maitake Mushrooms FAQs

The following frequently asked questions about maitake mushrooms should help clear up any confusion, miscommunications or myths.

Q: Are maitake mushrooms safe to eat?
A: People have enjoyed the maitake mushroom for thousands of years. This variety is best eaten fresh as it can become difficult to digest. Cooking may improve your ability to easily digest it.
Q: Should I wash maitake mushrooms?
A: Give maitake mushrooms a light shake and wipe them down with a damp paper towel. A quick rinse in the colander under cold running water is also acceptable, as long as they are patted dry before cooking.
Q: How long do maitake mushrooms keep?
A: Although it’s considered a good practice to eat maitake mushrooms within a few days, they will generally last one week if properly stored in the refrigerator.
Q: Are maitake mushrooms an anti-inflammatory?
A: Research indicates that isolates from the maitake mushroom demonstrate both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. A wide range of commercially grown mushrooms deliver these benefits as well.
Q: Is maitake the same as Hen of the Woods?
A: The Japanese term maitake loosely refers to “dancing mushroom.” Its appearance emulates the image of someone waving their hands while wearing a traditional Kimono. The same mushroom is sometimes referred to as Hen of the Woods in Europe and the U.S.

Sources:

1. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity. Written in March 2016 by: Giana Angelo, Ph.D. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Reviewed in February 2017 by: Catherine Field, Ph.D. Professor of Nutrition, Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta. 

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