Maitake (Grifola Frondosa)

Common Names

It’s said that the maitake, or “dancing mushroom,” got its name because Japanese villagers would dance for joy when they found the rare and valuable species in the deep mountain valleys of Japan.

Other commonly known names for maitake are Hen of the Woods and Ram’s Head. Its scientific name is Grifola Frondosa.

Characteristics

The maitake goes through drastic changes as it matures. It starts out growing in clusters of gray overlapping mounds. These mounds are the caps of the mushroom, which share the same stem and look similar to a cauliflower. As the entire specimen continues to grow, the caps spread and fan out becoming a dark gray or brown color.

When the maitake reaches maturity its color fades. Sometimes maitake turn into a light gray, yellowish color. The edges of the caps become brittle and fragile while the base and stems remain firm.

History

For centuries in Japan and China, maitake mushrooms were harvested specifically for their medicinal and healing capabilities.

Habitat

Northern temperate areas are the most common place for maitake to grow. They also prefer midrange temperatures, which is why they grow most fruitfully in the fall season of the northeastern regions of Japan and North America.

Maitake are generally found in the wild on stumps, or at the base of dying hardwood trees. It is common for Maitake to grow at the foot of decaying oaks, elms, maples, beech, blackgum, and larch trees.

Natural Cultivation Methods

The most successful outdoor cultivation methods for maitake are the log and stump methods. For these methods, the user should use hardwoods to achieve the greatest fruiting.

Generally, the stump cultivation technique will take a maitake-inoculated hardwood stump at least 2-3 years before it begins to fruit. However, it will produce in large volumes once fruiting begins.

Fruiting Cycles & Yield Potentials

If exercising the indoor cultivation method, you should inoculate a combination of sterilized sawdust, chips and bran for best results. This is the combination of ingredients that we use for our Maitake Mushroom Farms.

Mushroom Shack’s Maitake Mushroom Farm will produce between ½ and 1 lb of mushrooms throughout the entire fruiting cycle. The fruiting cycle will begin between 6 and 8 weeks after inoculation.

Substrates

The most successful substrate for Maitake to generate the best flush of mushrooms is hardwood sawdust. Sawdust, chips, bran, oak, poplar, cottonwood, elm, willow, and alder will also produce Maitake if treated properly.

Medicinal/Nutritional Properties

Maitake are most noted for their nutritional, medicinal, and healing potentials. It is probably the most studied variety of mushroom because of the beliefs in Japan and China that they have the ability to greatly improve the immune system.

According to many researchers, maitake mushrooms hold antibacterial properties and have anti-tumor and anti-cancer behaviors. In addition, some researchers believe maitake have anti-viral properties when eaten regularly. They can also reduce blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, boost the immune system, and can even help reduce stress.

These nutritional and medicinal properties are the reason why we got started in this business, just ask the founder of our company!

Cooking with Maitake

Maitake can be cooked fresh, dried, and can even be made into teas. They are known for their meaty and nutty flesh flavor.