Maitake mushrooms Grifola frondosa were traditionally called 'butterflies dancing' and 'dancing mushroom'. Maitake are indigenous to China, Japan and parts of North America. Growing wild in Japan they were found at the base of oak trees. Maitake's delicate, rippled cluster appearance evokes images of butterflies dancing. It was so highly valued in Japan for its flavor and healthful properties that it was affectionately called the "dancing mushroom". Those who found maitake in the wild could be seen dancing with joy at their discovery. In feudal Japan maitake were exchanged for their weight in silver with mushrooms weighing 50 to 100 pounds. Their growing locations were secret even amongst family members. In North America maitake are called 'hen of the woods', the rippled clusters reminiscent of ruffled feathers. Most recently maitake are called the 'King of Mushrooms' for its many health promoting qualities.
Today wild maitake are a rare find. To satisfy demand for this gourmet mushroom, all manufacturers grow maitake in a substrate mixture of sawdust from the beech tree, or a mixture of rice bran, millet bran, and wheat bran. The substrate for Eden Maitake is steam sterilized to prevent molds. This substrate is inoculated with maitake spores. Maitake grow to maturity in about 60 days and are air dried. Eden Maitake are grown in Japan without the use of fungicides, chemicals, or preservatives. Commercial varieties are grown on substrates treated with fungicides and are most commonly treated with chemicals and preservatives.
Mushrooms are the only vegetable source of vitamin D. They contain the sterol ergosterol, a precursor of vitamin D2, much like beta-carotene is a vegetable precursor of vitamin A. When exposed to light ergosterol is converted to vitamin D2. All mushrooms are a source of vitamin D2, but maitake contain much more. The common button or white mushroom contain less than 1% daily value (DV) vitamin D per serving. Eden Dried Maitake are an excellent source of vitamin D with 35% DV per serving. According to the FDA, "Low fat diets rich in fruits and vegetables (foods that are low in fat and may contain dietary fiber, Vitamin A, or Vitamin C) may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, a disease associated with many factors." Eden Maitake Mushrooms are a good source of fiber and rich in niacin B3.
In scientific studies on maitake's health benefits, of particular interest are polysaccharide carbohydrates, especially beta glucan that may be responsible for maitake's immune supporting properties. Maitake relieve side affects of chemotherapy such as nausea and hair loss. According to Barrie Cassileth, Ph. D., Chief of Integrative Medicine at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, "One of the beauties of maitake is that it has no toxicity and no side effects. It's a no lose product. It may be helpful, but it's not harmful, and it doesn't interfere or interact with chemotherapy."
Eden Dried Maitake are used the same way as fresh mushrooms or other dried mushrooms in soups, stews, stir fries, pasta dishes, sauces, and casseroles. Maitake's flavor blends well with grain, beans, seafood, meats, and vegetables, add a touch of garlic and Eden Shoyu Soy Sauce. Try combining maitake with fresh shiitake or any fresh mushroom or with Eden Sliced or Whole Dried Shiitake mushrooms in marinara, creamy white sauces, and gravies. Simply rinse quickly and soak to reconstitute. Soaking water may be reserved and used as part of any recipe. Only the larger, thicker pieces may require slicing for even cooking time.