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hen of the woods mushrooms

hen of the woods mushrooms

maitake mushrooms

what is it?

When you think of mushrooms, the word “pretty” doesn’t usually come to mind, but maitake might be the exception. You may know them as “hen of the woods,” a descriptive name owing to the mushrooms’ ruffled appearance:  Their white stalks gracefully fan out into feathery, curled caps. Depending on how much light they receive prior to harvest, those caps can range in color from white to dove gray or warm brown. Widely known for culinary as well as medicinal uses, maitake are called by many other names, too, including ram’s head or sheep’s head mushrooms, king of mushrooms, cloud mushrooms, and signorina (or unmarried woman).

Maitake are native to the United States, Europe, and Japan, and in the wild, they favor the base of oak and maple trees, as well as coniferous trees and stumps, where they can be found in late summer through early fall. Today, however, thanks to the Japanese who pioneered the effort, the mushroom is widely cultivated and can be found both fresh and dried in Asian markets and increasingly in supermarkets, where they are sold packaged most often with their Japanese name, maitake. With their beery aroma and meaty texture, maitake are delicious eaten raw, seared, roasted, deep-fried, grilled, or sautéed.

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