Hen of the Woods, Grifola frondosa
Grifola frondosa, also known as Hen of the Woods, or Maitake, is an edible polypore mushroom that is mostly found in association with oak trees in late Summer or early Autumn. It is a perennial fungus that often grows in the same place for a number of years in succession. It grows from an underground tuber-like structure known as a sclerotium, and the fruiting body can grow as large as 100 cm across. It forms a cluster of multiple grayish-brown, spoon-shaped caps, which are often curled with wavy margins. The undersurface of each cap bears a white pored surface, similar to other polypore mushrooms.
Hen of the Woods has a long culinary history and is extremely popular in Japan and other East Asian countries. It has a lovely mushroom aroma and a firm texture similar to chicken when cooked. With a mild mushroom flavour, it has a huge range of uses in the kitchen.
Arthur was so excited the first time he found this mushroom in the woods and couldn't wait to bring it home and eat it. After our meal of German-style Hen of the Woods in Huntsman Sauce with Spatzle, I was content to say that this was one of my favourite edible mushrooms. Arthur though, still insists that Chanterelles are his. Nonetheless, if you are lucky enough to come across this mushroom in the woods, definitely add it to your basket!
Hen of the Woods Checklist
🌳 Deciduous or Mixed Woodland.
🔗 Found mostly under Oak or growing out of rotting Oak stumps.
🌞🍂❄️ Between August and November
📈 Singly or in small groups at the base of Oaks or on Oak stumps.
🍄 Mulitiple greyish-brown, spoon-shaped caps with wavy margins, 3-10 cm wide.
⚛️ None, has white pores on the underside of the caps.
♊️ Stubby lobes, rather than defined stems.
⚪️ White, firm.
Aroma / Taste
👃 Smells very pleasant and mushroomy.
👅 Delicious and Mushroomy. Has a texture similar to chicken when cooked.
😋 A delicious, Choice Edible mushroom.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 The frondy, spoon-shaped caps and white pores are key identifiers of this mushroom.
🔗 This mushroom is almost always found in association with Oak and this is therefore a key identifier.
✅ This mushroom could be confused with the Blackening Polypore, Meripilus giganteus. The Blackening Polypore is less wavy and more tan-brown than Hen of the Woods. It also stains black when damaged or very old. However, The Blackening Polypore is also an edible mushroom, so confusion is not really a problem!
🍄 Fungi - Used in mushroom recipes.