Maitake Mushrooms, or Hen of the Woods, are commonly found in the deciduous, mature woods in North America, Japan, and China. It grows at the base of oaks, elm, and maple trees. It can be cultivated at home, though the wild one usually fair better. They are usually found in the fall.
This is also a wild mushroom you can buy at higher end grocery stores, like Wegmans or Whole Foods, and at farmer’s markets.
There are many mushroom recipes, but one of my favorites is risotto. It’s easier to get anyone who is less excited about mushroom eater to try risotto. The flavors are very appealing.
Start this recipe about an hour before eating because you don’t want to be rushed when cooking the rice.
Smell: At first, they have a pleasant odor. As they mature, it becomes less appealing.
Appearance: The underside of Maitake is white to yellowish and has tiny pores. The “caps” are gray to tan to dark brown with wavy edges and grown in clusters. From the side, they resemble coral. Another common name for this mushroom is “sheep’s head” because it looks like a sheep ready to be sheared.
Look Alikes – You’re lucky with this one because there aren’t any poisonous mushrooms that significantly resemble Maitake. However, to a new forager, all mushrooms can look alike. Always make sure it has all of the identifying characteristics and only consume if you are 100% certain it is maitake.
The following are all edible but can be confused with Maitake:
Cauliflower Mushrooms (Sparassis crispa, Sparassis spathulata, or Sparassis radicata) – Has many small, white to pale yellow or tan caps.
Black-Staining Polypore (Meripilus sumstinei) – So this one turns black when bruised, hence the name.
Berkeley’s Polypore (Bondarzewai berkeleyi) – The main difference with this one is the edges are extremely thick and stay thick as it grows. The color may resemble Maitake, creamy or yellowish or white.
- 4 Cups Broth chicken or vegetable
- 4 Tbsp Butter may substitute with olive oil or canola oil
- 1 Cup Maitake Mushrooms more or less
- 1 Onion or Wild Onion, Garlic, Ramps, etc. diced
- 1 1/2 Cup Arborio Rice
- 1 Cup White Wine
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/3 Cup Arborio Cheese
- Pepper optional, to taste
- 1 Bunch Yellow Wood Sorrel
- Start by warming the broth in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Heat the 2 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and place a heavy skillet on top to increase the pressure. Caste iron works great for this. This will save time and improve the flavor and consistency of the mushroom. Check occasionally. It will be slightly brown when done and soft. Remove from the pan when done and set aside.
- Heat a medium-sized pot on medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp butter and the onions and cook for about a minute. Add the rice and cook for several minutes until translucent.
- Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice. Stir until the wine is fully absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously until the rice is done and the liquid is absorbed.
- Turn off the heat and add the mushrooms, asiago cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Garnish with yellow wood sorrel.