Understand maitake mushroom benefits and there is a good chance that you will add this gourmet mushroom into your diet more frequently 

The maitake is also commonly known as the hen of the woods mushroom. It often grows in clumped, leaf-like shapes at the base of maples and oaks. Maitakes have a semi-firm texture and a complex flavor with notes of earthiness, spiciness, and fruitiness.

Today we are looking at maitake mushroom benefits, as well as ways to grow this intriguing mushroom.  Before we get into the maitake mushroom benefits, let’s look at some background information on this mushroom.

Maitake mushroom information

The scientific name of maitake mushroom is Grifola frondosa. We find these mushrooms growing wild in the Northeast in the late summer and fall.

Considering the word “maitake” we can break it into two pieces: “mai” meaning dance and “take” meaning mushroom. Some resources have said that this name was purportedly given due to a joyful feeling one gets after eating the maitake mushroom. Perhaps that is the first of the maitake mushroom benefits we should mention: Eating maitakes may lead you to dancing.

Maitake mushroom benefits: The umami flavor

Maitake has umami, also known as the “fifth taste”, which involves a savory component.

Here is an excerpt from the study Mushrooms—Biologically Distinct and Nutritionally Unique, which discusses both the umami flavor and some of the nutritional constituents associated:

“Mushrooms have many flavor and nutrient characteristics that make them an ideal addition to many dishes. Their texture and umami or savory flavor properties make them a suitable substitute for meat. Mushrooms contribute moisture that improves the mouth feel and overall sensory appeal of many dishes, whereas their low energy density (about 92% water) can reduce the energy density of the final dish when taking the place of other higher-energy-dense ingredients.”

The study continues with a deeper look at the umami flavor and mushroom nutrition:

“The use of other umami-rich ingredients, such as tomatoes, that have a synergistic effect with the umami compounds in mushrooms further adds to the flavor and consumer appeal. The interactions of the umami compounds on taste buds create longer-lasting taste sensations compared with the effects of the compound on their own. Traditional global cuisines have combined multiple umami-rich ingredients for millennia to create iconic dishes. For example, in Chinese cuisine, fresh mushrooms that contain naturally occurring glutamate often are combined with dried, rehydrated mushrooms that contain naturally occurring guanylate. Mushrooms and other vegetables rich in umami also have the benefit of being low in sodium and rich in potassium”

Maitake mushroom benefits for immunomodulation

One of the big maitake mushroom benefits is its immunomodulating effects. This mushroom can help the immune system find a strong middle, even if the immune system is currently mildly excessive or mildly deficient. Let’s take a look at a study that shares this information.

The study is entitled A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects and it was conducted in 2009. Here is a look at the study’s background:

“Cancer patients commonly use dietary supplements to “boost immune function”. A polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake extract) showed immunomodulatory effects in preclinical studies and therefore the potential for clinical use.”

One line in the results section that caught my attention states, “There was a statistically significant association between Maitake and immunologic function (p < 0.0005).”

The conclusions of the study found that immune system stimulation and modulation. It also warns of using substances that can depress immune function. Here is a look at the conclusions:

“Oral administration of a polysaccharide extract from Maitake mushroom is associated with both immunologically stimulatory and inhibitory measurable effects in peripheral blood. Cancer patients should be made aware of the fact that botanical agents produce more complex effects than assumed, and may depress as well as enhance immune function.”

One does not need to be fighting cancer in order to take advantage of the immunomodulatory properties of the maitake mushrooms.

Growing maitake mushrooms to get maitake mushroom benefits at home

We have a few different options for you if you are interested in growing maitake mushrooms at home. If you are planning to grow maitake, we recommend using oak trees. Know that this mushroom would be considered in the middle of the spectrum for growing difficulty.

Plug spawn for growing maitake mushrooms: Using the plug spawn is a great option if you want to inoculate oak logs for growing maitakes at home. You can use a palm inoculator or you can hammer in the plugs yourself. Once the plugs are in the logs, seal the holes with some cheese wax, beeswax, or food-grade paraffin wax.

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Grain spawn for growing maitake mushrooms: If you want to try growing maitake indoors you can use grain spawn to inoculate your substrate mixture. An oak-based substrate would be ideal, and it could be supplemented with bran.

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Sawdust spawn for growing maitake mushrooms: Using sawdust spawn also goes well for inoculating your oak logs. Sawdust spawn tends to colonize the logs quicker than the plug spawn, although it might be slightly harder to fill the holes with the sawdust than with the plugs. Using a palm inoculator is helpful.

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Get growing maitakes today!