Other names: Grifola frondosa, Maitake
General Information: Grifola frondosa is a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The mushroom is commonly known among English speakers as Hen of the Woods, Ram's Head and Sheep's Head. In the United States' supplement market, as well as in Asian grocery stores, the mushroom is known by its Japanese name "Maitake", which means "dancing mushroom".
Shades of gray-brown, white and tan decorate the layers of wrinkled caps on this delicate Asian mushroom, which grows multiple long stems from the base upwards as it forms a large leafy head. Unusual in shape, the Hen of the Woods typically grows at the base of hardwood tree trunks, extending outward from the tree trunk and forming multiple layers of caps as it grows. Instead of gills beneath the cap, the Hen of the Woods develops tubes that extend down onto the stem.
Succulent, large and firm in texture, this mushroom has a strong earthy or musty aroma, providing a flavor that is bold, somewhat nutty and very similar to a Portobello. It is a variety of fungus that is often valued for it's health benefits due to the amount of fiber, protein, and vitamins B and C that it contains. However, it is best to use some caution when eating the Hen of the Woods, as it may cause stomach discomfort for those who are sensitive or allergic to various mushrooms.