Grifola frondosa, commonly called Maitake is one of the more popular and tasty wild mushrooms found today.
On a recent forage, Jack and I ran across a large bunch of the fungus and took a bit home. Though I’ve seen the mushroom in the produce sections of specialty stores and plenty of photos, I’ve never tried it.
Maitake in Japanese, literally means dancing mushroom. At one time the mushroom was so prized (for its medicinal properties) that those who found it would dance with joy.
After cleaning, I decided to cook a bit of it in butter and garlic and found this to be the most excellent mushrooms I’ve tasted. It’s light, crisp with a unique taste, not really comparable to anything else.
The research shows that Maitake is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for lowering cholesterol, blood glucose and as an immune booster in addition to a few other things and has been used as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.).
Those who use Maitake tea, made with the dried mushroom and say it tastes and smells brothy. Though I haven’t tried it, that’s next on the ‘To Do’ list.
Researchers believe the mushroom may have constituents that promote programmed cell death and for cancer patients this is good news, as it would reduce tumor growth.
There have been several reported cases in Japanese studies in which subjects have experienced “…partial or complete remission in most cases.” Read more…
Though the research is inconclusive there is some talk of new trials and more extensive research into the mushroom and its medicinal benefits.
Regardless, I’m going to enjoy the culinary aspect.
The specimen I found was found at the base of red oak and most foragers do usually find it somewhere near oak trees.
Though I don’t see that this mushroom resembles others, some think it resembles Berkley’s Polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi).
If you do harvest your own Maitake, be sure to correctly identify and only collect healthy specimens. Cut away any damaged areas before preparing.
How to prepare Maitake
Maitake can be used in a variety of dishes and is excellent stir-fried or sautéed on its own.
Wash thoroughly before cooking.
Pasta with Maitake and Camembert Cheese
Maitake and Eggplant Cheese fry and a few other Maitake recipes.