Maitake Mushroom (Grifola Frondosa)

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola Frondosa)

The maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is a polypore mushroom (so it forms large fruiting bodies, featuring pores or tubes on the underside). The mushroom grows at the base of trees, particularly old-growth oaks or maples. You can typically find maitake mushrooms growing in the wild from late summer to early autumn. They are native to China, Europe, and North America.

Maitake is the Japanese term for the mushroom, which means “dancing mushroom”. It is said to have gotten this name after people danced with happiness after finding it in the wild, due to its healing properties. It also goes by the name “hen-of-the-woods” because it resembles a fan-like hen tail.

G. frondosa grows from an underground tuber-like structure known as a sclerotium, which is about the size of a potato. The fruiting body, which occurs as large as 100 cm (30 in), rarely 150 cm (60 in), is a cluster made up of multiple grayish-brown caps. These caps are often curled or spoon-shaped, with wavy margins and 2-10 cm (1-4 in) wide.

The undersurface of each cap has around 1-3 pores per millimeter, with the tubes rarely deeper than 3 mm (⅛ in). The milky-white stipe (stalk) has a branchy structure, which becomes tough as the mushroom matures.

In Japan, the maitake mushroom can grow to more than 45 kg (100 lbs).

There are no lookalikes that are toxic. This is a very distinct-looking mushroom. However, the maitake mushroom does have a cousin, the black staining mushroom, which is similar in taste but rubbery.

Edible species that look similar to G. frondosa include Meripilus sumstinei (which stains black), Sparassis spathulata, and Laetiporus sulphureus (another edible polypore fungus that is commonly called “chicken of the woods”).

People in China and Japan have consumed maitake mushrooms for centuries. Consuming maitake may confer some medicinal benefits as well, with people praising the mushroom for its promises of health, vitality, and longevity. These benefits are due to the polysaccharides contained in the mushroom.

The maitake mushroom is a type of adaptogen. Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that assist the body in combating stress, anxiety, and fatigue. They also work to regulate systems of the body that have become unbalanced.

However, there are fewer studies on the medicinal benefits of the maitake mushroom compared to other functional mushrooms.

You can grow maitake mushrooms, including at home, although they won’t typically grow as well as they do in the wild.

This guide will explore the various aspects of G. frondosa, including:

  • Maitake mushroom benefits
  • Maitake mushroom side effects
  • How to grow maitake mushrooms
  • How to cook maitake mushrooms
  • Maitake mushroom tea/coffee
  • Where to buy maitake mushroom powder

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Maitake Mushroom Benefits

Maitake mushrooms are extremely healthy. But beyond nutrition, maitake mushrooms may help prevent and treat cancer and other health conditions, as well as have a positive effect on overall immunity.

Keep in mind that while laboratory research on these benefits is promising, more studies are needed to confirm the mushroom’s effect on humans.

Grifola Frondosa Nutrition Facts

Maitake mushrooms are rich in:

  • Antioxidants
  • Beta-glucans
  • Vitamins B and C
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids

These mushrooms are also:

  • Fat-free
  • Low in sodium
  • Low in calories
  • Cholesterol-free

Anti-Cancer Properties

A 2013 study found that maitake D-Fraction (a beta-glucan extracted from the mushroom) could be useful in preventing and treating breast cancer. The researchers behind this study suggested that maitake can fight the growth and reproduction of cancerous cells.

The maitake mushroom is able to suppress tumor growth in mice. It can also increase the number of cells fighting against the tumor. This suggests that people could use it to manage cancer effectively.

A previous study discovered that maitake D-Fraction is efficient in killing human cancer cells. Participants took maitake alongside a protein that also fights cancer and it helped to increase this protein’s effectiveness.

Reducing Cholesterol And Improving Heart Health

In a 2013 study, researchers showed that maitake powdered extract lowered cholesterol levels in mice. The mushroom was also able to increase fatty acids that provide energy. Due to these findings, the researchers theorized that eating maitake mushrooms may help keep arteries healthy.

Beta-glucan in maitake works to reduce cholesterol, improving artery functionality and overall cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of heart disease. The polysaccharides in maitake can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting your triglyceride or HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Managing Type 2 Diabetes

A 2015 study revealed that the maitake mushroom can have a positive effect on rats with type 2 diabetes, helping to alleviate their impaired glucose metabolism.

Another beta-glucan found in maitake, called SX-fraction, lowers blood glucose lowers. It also helps to activate insulin receptors, which reduces insulin resistance (an important effect for anyone looking to manage diabetes).

Immune Support

Along with supporting heart health, beta-glucan can help improve the strength of the immune system. D-Fraction in maitake mushrooms has a strong effect on the immune system. It boosts the production of lymphokines (protein mediators) and interleukins (secreted proteins) that boost your immune response.

Maitake Mushroom Side Effects And Risks

Maitake mushrooms are digestible as long as they’re not too old. If older, the mushroom’s toughness can make it difficult to digest. However, in this instance, all you need to do is cook the mushroom to improve its digestibility.

More often than not, maitake mushroom is well tolerated. But you should be aware that an allergic reaction is possible. Of course, if you have a general allergy to mushrooms, you should avoid maitake.

However, some people have allergies to specific types of mushrooms, and maitake might be one of them.

Fresh maitake, especially when eaten raw, may also cause diarrhea or upset stomach, which does not typically occur when taken in supplement form (capsules, tablets, or pills).

If you have diabetes, you should consult with your doctor before using maitake mushrooms. This is because maitake may have an effect on your blood sugar. Also, it can lower your blood pressure. So make sure you discuss any plans to use maitake with your doctor if you have hypotension (low blood pressure).

You shouldn’t ingest maitake mushrooms within two weeks of surgery or if you have a bleeding disorder.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an autoimmune disease, check with your doctor before using any maitake mushroom supplements.

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How To Grow Maitake Mushrooms

The best way to grow maitake mushrooms is on logs. This process is moderately difficult.

Maitake mushrooms are slightly parasitic to their host tree and therefore they require a different planting strategy than most other log-grown mushrooms. To grow them, the log first needs to be treated by pressure cooking, steaming, or boiling. This extra step is well worth the effort, though, as the logs can fruit for seven years (or even longer).

Let’s now describe how you can grow maitake mushrooms on logs, step-by-step.

1. Cut The Logs

Maitake grows almost exclusively on oak species. Cut healthy, living trees of oak for your maitake cultivation. Diseased trees or logs that fell a long time ago do not work well.

Cut the logs to a size that will fit comfortably in a heat-resistant autoclavable bag (designed to tolerate the heat treatments described in Step 2). This size will usually be around 8” x 8” x 11”. Avoid pieces that weigh less than 2 lbs.

You will also need to know the size of the pressure cooker, steamer, or boiling vessel that you will use to treat the logs. Make sure the logs easily fit inside.

Kits that include the bag will have breathable foam plugs and collars provided. Installing these will satisfy the necessary airflow requirements for successful cultivation.

2. Treat The Logs

There are three methods you can follow to treat log segments. For each method, place each log section upright into an autoclavable bag and push the entire opening of the bag up through the plastic collar and insert the foam plug.

After doing the above, follow one of the three methods for treating the log.

  1. Sterilizing (pressure cooking). This is the most effective treatment. Place the bagged log into the pressure cooker. Make sure no plastic is touching the canner’s surfaces (except where the log rests on the canner’s rack). Add enough water to achieve a 120-minute cook. Sterilize at 15 psi for 120 minutes. It’s important to note that you should always read your pressure cooker manual for operation instructions. After all, pressure cookers vary in design and function.
  2. Steaming. Place the bagged log into the steamer. Steam the log for at least three hours and let it cool with the lid on the canner. The contamination rate is lowest when you steam for six hours.
  3. Boiling. Place the bagged log in a large pot and maintain a low rolling boil for one hour. Remove the hot log when it is safe to handle and finish cooling in a clean and undisturbed area.

3. Inoculate The Logs

Once the logs are cool, you can inoculate them. First, clean the inoculation area and spawn bag well and limit air movement to reduce the risk of contamination during inoculation.

Next, break apart the sawdust spawn by kneading the bag. Cut open the spawn bag, remove the collar and foam plug from the bagged log, and pour in 1-1 ½ cups of spawn. Replace the collar and foam plug quickly, then manipulate and jiggle the spawn around so that the top and bottom (cut ends) of the log are coated with spawn.

4. Incubate The Logs

Place the log in an area at room temperature (55-70 degrees Fahrenheit ideally) and incubate for 2-3 months. The spawn will spread out across the surface of the log, creating a white coating that will eventually develop orange rust-colored patches as the fungus colonizes the log.

After 2-3 months, the log should be mostly covered in mycelium and ready to be buried. Green mold and contaminants may also develop, but don’t worry, these are only a nuisance — they should not influence the maitake.

5. Bury The Logs

After incubation, remove the log from the bag and bury it vertically in a shaded spot outdoors. You want the top of the log to be one inch below the surface. Mark the location of the buried log.

6. Harvest Your Mushrooms

Maitake mushrooms fruit in late summer and fall, around one year after you buried the log. Maitake logs can fruit for more than seven years, so continuously check your logs year after year. To harvest the mushrooms, simply pull and twist the mushrooms off when the fronds grow to 1-2” long. You can then store them in the refrigerator until you want to enjoy them.

How To Cook Maitake Mushrooms

The flavor of maitake mushrooms is best described as rich, earthy, and peppery. They have a crunchy texture and work well in a variety of dishes. Follow the steps on how best to cook them.

Storing And Cleaning Maitake Mushrooms

Before cooking maitake mushrooms, you need to make sure they’re stored correctly.

Keep your mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator (not the produce drawer). The paper bag allows them to breathe while keeping them in the main part of the refrigerator ensures they will get good airflow.

Before cooking your mushrooms, you also want to clean them with a quick rinse. Just make sure you don’t soak them as this will make them soggy. Pat them dry after rinsing them.

The Best Method For Cooking Maitake Mushrooms

Since maitake mushrooms have a robust, almost peppery flavor, you need to offset that with lots of savory and salty flavors when cooking them. Soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic work well in this respect.

You’ll need the following:

  • 8 ounces of maitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of sesame oil (standard, not toasted)
  • 2 tbsp of tamari or soy sauce
  • ⅛ tsp of kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp of Sriracha (or ¼ teaspoon of rice vinegar)
  • Two medium garlic cloves
  • For the garnish: chopped chives or sliced green onions (optional)

Here are the steps to follow when cooking maitake mushrooms:

  1. Use your fingers to pull the maitake mushrooms apart into 3” slices. There’s no need to use a knife.
  2. Cook the mushrooms on medium heat in a non-stick or cast iron skillet for two minutes on one side, then one minute on the other. Sesame oil works best.
  3. Add seasonings. Minced garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of Sriracha work well. Add the garlic and cook until softened and fragrant (this will take about 30 seconds). Stir in the soy sauce, Sriracha, and salt, and cook for another minute until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Serve immediately as a side garnished with sliced chives or green onion tops, or with soba noodles.

Ways To Serve Maitake Mushrooms

Once you’ve cooked your maitake mushrooms to perfection, you can enjoy them as a side dish or add them to a variety of dishes, including:

  • Noodles
  • Stir fry
  • Pizza
  • Ramen
  • Salad
  • Pasta
  • Soup

Maitake Mushroom Tea/Coffee

Making maitake mushroom tea or coffee is another great way to use these mushrooms and enjoy their benefits. The recipes are also very simple.

How To Make Maitake Mushroom Tea

There are different ways to make maitake mushroom tea. To balance the umami, meaty taste of maitake, you can blend it with green tea. Here’s how to do so.

  1. Bring 8 ounces of filtered water to a boil.
  2. Add 4 slices of maitake mushrooms to the water and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Discard the mushrooms or add them to your compost.
  4. Add 1 green tea bag, a few slices of ginger, and 4 drops of vanilla stevia.
  5. Let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Strain and enjoy.

How To Make Maitake Mushroom Coffee

If you want more of an energy boost from a morning drink, then you can make maitake mushroom coffee. We have two recipes for you that use maitake mushroom powder. You can either make this yourself (from ground-up dried maitake) or purchase it from a vendor.

Maitake Mushroom Hot Cacao Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp of mushroom powder
  • 1 tsp of maple syrup (or another sweetener of choice, plus more to taste)
  • 1 tsp of almond butter or another nut/seed butter (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of dairy-free milk (such as cashew, coconut, or almond milk)

Instructions

  1. Add the maitake mushroom powder, maple syrup, almond butter (optional), cacao powder, cinnamon, and sea salt to a small blender.
  2. Steam or heat the dairy-free milk until hot and add to the blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds to one minute, or until frothy and well-blended.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding cinnamon for warmth/spice, more sweetener to taste, or more cacao for a rich chocolate flavor.
  4. Serve as is, or top with coconut whipped cream, cinnamon, and/or cacao powder. Best when fresh. You can store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until hot.

Maitake Mushroom Coffee Latte

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp of mushroom powder
  • 1 tsp of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of cacao powder (optional)
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of dairy-free milk (such as cashew, coconut, or almond milk)
  • 1 shot of espresso or ⅓ cup of strong brewed coffee

Instructions

  1. Add the maitake mushroom powder, maple syrup, cacao powder (optional), cinnamon, and sea salt to a small blender.
  2. Steam or heat the dairy-free milk until hot and add to the blender along with the espresso or coffee. Blend on high for 30 seconds to one minute, or until frothy and well-blended.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding cinnamon for warm/spice, more sweetener to taste, or more coffee or espresso for a stronger coffee flavor.
  4. Serve as is, or top with coconut whipped cream or cinnamon. Best when fresh. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until hot.

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Maitake Mushroom Powder

If you want to have a supply of maitake mushroom powder, then one option is to make it yourself.

To do this, you first want to dry the mushrooms. Place the fresh maitake mushrooms in an oven heated to 175 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, flipping them halfway through. Then transfer them to a colander to air-dry for another 3-5 days. Once (completely) dried, you can keep them in a sealed container for up to two years.

If you want to turn these dried mushrooms into a powder, you can achieve this by putting them into a food processor or blender. Process them until they turn into a fine powder.

You can also purchase maitake mushroom powder from a variety of vendors. If you decide to do so, just make sure the vendor is reputable and well-reviewed. The product should be organic and produced in a way so that it’s free from industrial pollutants.

You should be aware that there are two different forms of maitake mushroom powder that you can buy online:

  • Powder derived from ground-up, dried, whole maitake mushrooms
  • Maitake mushroom extract powder — this is a more concentrated form of maitake, in which the active constituents of the mushroom are extracted. By using an extract powder, you will consume a much lower dosage to get the same medicinal benefits. Extracts can vary widely in terms of strengths (and therefore dosages), so make sure you follow recommendations for dosing when buying an extract.

Maitake extracts (which can come in the form of capsules or tinctures) may also have other mushroom extracts added to them, such as chaga, lion’s mane, Turkey Tail, cordyceps, shiitake, oyster, reishi, and Tremella, as these offer health benefits, too. This blend from our partner is a great option, and code ‘HEALINGMAPS’ will get you a discount.

When buying maitake mushroom products online, you should look for 100 percent extract with no fillers. It’s crucial to know exactly what you’re getting. Also, do your research and only buy from a company that provides you with sufficient information about the product.

Maitake shows potential for treating a range of health issues. There are no guarantees, but by consuming maitake every day, you may notice some improvements in your health over time.

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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