The Maitake mushroom is an edible and medicinal mushroom and originates from Japan, specifically in the northwest. Meanwhile we can find it in Europe as well as in Asia and North America. The Dutch name is Oak Rabbit and immediately indicates that it grows mainly on oak trees. You can find her mainly at the foot of these (living) tree species. She can also be found on other tree species, such as maple and elm. This mushroom normally grows every year on the same tree. In the Netherlands it is very rare, mainly in summer and autumn. The Maitake mushroom has a special appearance: its fan-shaped fruiting body is also reminiscent of a swarm of fluttering butterflies. It consists of a central stem from which several hats emerge. Tubes with a whitish colour can be seen on the underside. The top of the caps is gray-brown to cream. The fruit body can be very large, up to 60 centimeters. The Maitake mushroom shows strong similarities with the Giant Agaric (Meripilus giganteus), which however has browner hats with smaller pores.
In Japan, the Maitake mushroom is known as the 'dancing mushroom'. According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and lumberjacks would find a large amount of Maitake mushrooms on top of a mountain and out of enthusiasm made a joy dance to celebrate this discovery. These poetic words also show how they tried to describe the shape of this mushroom: 'The Maitake mushroom has overlapping, fan-shaped hats that resemble butterflies in a wild dance.
Grifola frondosa, this name comes from the Italian word 'grifola' meaning mushroom. Frondosa' means 'full of leaves' and refers to the fan-like appearance of the mushroom.
Oak hare, keisho, Hen of the woods (English) , poule de bois (French), Klapperschwamm (German). The English and French names refer to the shape of the mushroom, which is also reminiscent of a somewhat plump, feathered chicken.
The Italian name 'Signorina' means 'unmarried woman'.
Maitake contains several substances that have a beneficial effect on the immune system. For example, it consists of various polysaccharides, ergosterol, fungisterol, octadecadiene acid, bioflavonoids, vitamin C, the enzyme prolyl aminopeptidase and various phospholipids. Research shows that the mushroom contains a certain protein (GFAHP) that would inhibit the Herpes-simplex virus and thus could be an interesting tool in the fight against herpes.
In terms of nutritional values, research led by mycologist Paul Stamets has shown that Maitake is very rich in several important nutrients:
- It contains 377 calories per 100 grams of dry weight
- 25 percent proteins
- 3 to 4 percent fat (of which 1 percent polyunsaturated fat, 2 percent total unsaturated fat and 0.3 percent saturated fat)
- Approximately 60 percent carbohydrates (41 percent complex carbohydrates)
- About 28 percent fibers
- 0 percent cholesterol
- B vitamins (mg/100g): niacin (64.8), riboflavin (2.6 mg) and panthotenic acid (4.4 mg)
- High potassium concentrations: 2,300 mg/100 gram (or 2.3 percent in dry mass)
The Maitake mushroom is an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body become more balanced and the body is better able to adapt to unfavourable conditions, such as cold or heat, little sleep, and so on.
The Maitake mushroom has been used as a medicinal mushroom for a very long time, mainly to strengthen the immune system, this is also called immunomodulating. As a resistance enhancing mushroom it is interesting to use in people who are weakened, for example by old age or diseases. The mushroom is used as an aid in the treatment of, for example, AIDS and HIV. It is also one of the most commonly used medicinal mushrooms in the treatment of cancer. According to research Maitake causes apoptosis. This means that cancer cells cannot survive and in fact destroy themselves. The blood cells that nourish tumours are also eliminated. The reason for this probably lies in the composition of the mushroom, which contains a number of important polysaccharides, especially the heavy and complex 1,3- 1,4 and 1,6 beta-D-glucans. Two more recent studies with 32 participants with breast cancer have shown that the D-fractions of the beta-glucans found in the Maitake mushroom slowed tumor growth in patients with breast cancer (Deng et al., 2009).
Another small-scale study of 10 non-medicated cancer patients showed that it slowed tumor growth and facilitated natural killer cell activity (Kodama et al., 2003).
As an antioxidant, Maitake purifies blood and helps the body to get rid of toxins more easily. As an antioxidant she also has the quality to cure liver disorders such as hepatitis. Furthermore, this mushroom is used in people who are overweight, because it could help to lose weight. People with burn-out or overtiredness can also benefit from the effects of the Maitake mushroom, its antioxidant properties also play a role here.
Another study led by Paul Stamets showed that certain complex sugars would allow immune-enhancing cells to stay alive longer, thus increasing resistance. Although more research is needed to dissect the action and active substances in the Maitake mushroom, it is clear that this mushroom gives the body a boost and can accelerate the healing process in several complex ways.
Furthermore, research has been done that shows that Maitake can possibly help with Type 2 diabetes. For example, the study shows how Maitake modulates glucose levels, which is very important in the process of healing and prevention of Type 2 diabetes. This disease affects more and more people worldwide. Meanwhile, about 8% of the American population has diabetes. Here it is in seventh place as cause of death. Side effects of diabetes are deterioration of the eyes, kidney problems and neuropathy.
Not only is the Maitake mushroom used as a medicine, it is also known as a popular ingredient in the kitchen. In Asia, especially Japan, it is found in various dishes. Maitake contains L-glutamate, a natural flavouring that activates certain receptors on the taste buds. This salty flavour is also called umami, the 'fifth flavour'.
5 to 6 cups of water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1,5 cup Maitake, in fine strips
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1,5 cup of dehulled barley
1 tsp salt (or more, as desired)
0,5 grated parmesan cheese
0,5 chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste
A little lime juice
Bring the water or broth to the boil, then bring the fire to a low temperature to keep it warm.
Heat the butter in a large stew over medium heat, add the shallots and bring to the boil. Stir regularly for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, Maitake and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes while stirring.
Add the dehulled barley and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the hot water or stock, together with the salt, and keep stirring.
Reduce the heat and add the remaining liquid, in two parts. Keep stirring regularly and wait until it is almost completely evaporated, before adding more liquid.
The dehulled barley should boil for about 45 minutes, or until it is soft but still has bite.
As soon as the barley is ready, add the parmesan cheese and 3 tablespoons of parsley. Season with salt, pepper and lime. Garnish with more parsley.
According to research by Paul Stamets it is possible, but not easy, to grow Maitake mushrooms yourself.