October's Wild Food of the Month
The Hen of the Woods, AKA
A bountiful Fall fungi fond of
the mighty Oak tree
As the mushrooming season comes to a close, one last treat awaits
the forager. One last BIG treat because, if you're lucky, you may find a fruiting of Hen
of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) as big as forty or fifty pounds.
Here's a list of some of the many good things about Grifola frondosa (AKA Maitake
1) Fabulous flavor
2) A firm texture that lends itself to almost any culinary application
3) Its usually bug free - at least inside the flesh - you have to pick
over it but unless it's over the hill you won't find much in the way of bug larvae
4) Easy to store. Just chop this one up into what ever size pieces you
like to cook with and store them in freezer bags in the freezer without any par-boiling,
5) It's good for you! Studies are beginning to reveal immune-enhancing
and cancer-preventing properties.
Description: Widely variable in color, from pure white to tan to brown
to gray. It appears to get darker depending on direct sunlight (just like we do!) Large
overlapping leaf-like fronds grow in bushy clusters that get larger with time. Each frond
is from a half to four inches across and is usually darker to the outward edges of the
"caps." The entire fruiting body can be as big as several feet across. The
underside of individual caps consists of a pure white pore surface. Grifola frondosa is
a polypore, a mushroom which disperses its spores from pores as opposed to gills. The
pores are close together and tiny, almost difficult to see. The caps are firm and juicy.
The stem is thick firm, white and branched. The spore print is white.
Grifola frondosa fruits anytime from early September to
late October and seems to be triggered by the first cold nights of the end of Summer. It
is found mostly with dead or dying Oak trees, though I regularly find clusters under a
dead Maple (pictured at right with quite a job of camouflaging itself). Once you find one,
go back the next year and you may find it again. I freeze enough to get me through until
Morel season in the Spring!
- Roy Reehil
How to find and
identify Maitake | How to prepare Maitake
More Maitake Pictures and Descriptions | Maitake recipes