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What Is Maitake?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
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Maitake are a type of mushroom that is native to Japan and certain parts of North America; namely the North Eastern portion of the United States. English-speaking countries often label these mushrooms as Sheep's Head or Ram's Head mushrooms. In Japanese, the word maitake literally means "dancing mushroom," which is fitting given the mushrooms spongy appearance.

In most instances, maitake mushrooms do not grow any larger than a standard baking potato, though this is not the case in Japan. Some maitake mushrooms grown in Japan may reach up to 50 pounds (22.73 kilograms). These mushrooms are prized by chefs throughout the world due to their interesting texture and taste. In Japan alone, this variety of mushroom, in addition to shitake and enoki mushrooms, is immensely popular.

Cooking with maitake mushrooms is quite simple, since these mushrooms are extremely versatile. Depending on the size of the maitake at hand, some of these mushrooms may take longer to cook than others. Essentially, simply cutting the mushroom into bite-sized pieces is the best way to cook this type of fungi. Dried maitakes must be soaked in water prior to cooking, though fresh maitakes can be cooked right away.

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When purchasing maitakes, make sure to purchase mushrooms that are firm and fleshy. Try to avoid any maitakes that are overly dry, blemished, or limp. By squeezing this kind of mushroom, consumers should be able to discern whether or not a mushroom has reached its desired plumpness. This is precisely why purchasing maitakes online is not recommended. Instead, purchasing this type of mushroom from a specialized vegetable retailer is a wise choice.

Aside from the fact that many chefs use maitakes, these mushrooms are also thought to have certain health benefits. Some people believe that maitakes may be able to combat variosu illnesses that emerge as a result of cancer or diabetes. Thus, maitake supplements are sold in health food stores across the world. Still, it is important to choose supplements that are produced by a trusted manufacturer. Any supplements that have been concocted by an individual should be disregarded.

While rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction to maitake mushrooms. Therefore, children under the age of seven years old should not be allowed to ingest this type of mushroom. In fact, children should not consume any kind of mushroom at a young age. Should an allergic reaction occur following consummation of a maitake, medical attention should be sought immediately.

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