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Maitake mushrooms are a popular gourmet ingredient used by home cooks and professional chefs alike. “Maitake” is Japanese for dancing mushrooms; it’s said to have earned this name because forgers often danced with joy after finding this delicious and healthy mushroom growing in the wild. You may know the maitake mushroom by one of its Western monikers: hen-of-the-woods, ram’s head, or sheep’s head.
Maitakes grow in a cluster of smooth, velvety caps. Their sizes range drastically, and some fruiting bodies have grown up to 100 pounds! This gourmet mushroom is popular due to its purported health benefits and its versatility as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. It’s often found in stir-frys, stews, vegetable stocks, and pasta dishes. In the wild, maitake mushrooms are often found in late summer or early autumn. Luckily, R&R Cultivation offers our maitakes year-round for your enjoyment!
Maitake mushrooms are a great health food! They’re cholesterol free, fat free, and low calorie. In addition, maitakes are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, minerals, beta-glucans, and many vitamins (notably, vitamins B and C).
In one Japanese study, researchers found that mice fed maitake mushrooms had a lower level of atherosclerosis (the process that creates plaque deposits in the arteries) than the control mice. Scientists believe this occurred because mushrooms may lower triglyceride levels, which contribute to atherosclerosis. Maitakes may also be beneficial in treating type 2 diabetes and even slowing cancerous tumor growth.
Texture and Recommended Preparation
When cooked, maitake mushrooms taste woodsy, earthy, and slightly spicy. Their texture is succulent, semi-firm, and chewy when they’re sauteed, grilled, or roasted. These mushrooms are very versatile; they can be used raw or cooked. Some cooks use dried maitakes to add umami to their sauces, pizzas, and stocks. Others take dried maitake powder as a dietary supplement due to its suspected health benefits.
If you’re new to maitakes, we recommend a simple saute in butter or oil. This will allow you to experience the delicious nuances of this gourmet mushroom. Then, feel free to toss it into your favorite dish for an additional punch of mushroom flavor!