The maitake mushroom develops from an underground tuber similar to a potato.
It grows under deciduous trees or on tree stumps, usually oak trees.
This mushroom’s body is fertile and consists of numerous shoots that branch from a common fleshy base.
The tops of the shoots have the shape of a spoon. The flesh of the maitake mushroom is white and fibrous, has a pleasant taste, and smell is reminiscent of yeast.
Maitake grows naturally in Eurasia and North America’s western and eastern parts.
At the end of the seventies of the last century, the successful production of maitake mushrooms under controlled conditions began in Japan.
The name maitake for this mushroom is in use everywhere in the world, but there are many other names as if it has always inspired the people who encountered it in nature with its miraculous appearance. Maitake means dancing mushroom in Japanese.
According to legend, it got this name in feudal Japan. At that time, it was very rare and difficult to find, so the money people obtained for it was considerable. Supposedly, people who found them would dance for joy.
Maitake mushroom is also known as “Hen of the Woods,” “ram’s head,” or “sheep’s head,” but also as “rabbit mushroom,” “grey bush,” “deer’s ear,” which does not even close exhaust all the names. But they are some of the most interesting ones in use.
Maitake is a mushroom with medicinal properties, but it differs from mushrooms with similar properties in that, in addition to soluble polysaccharides, it also contains insoluble acids.
This property enables successful drying and storage. Dried and ground into a powder, it can be used as a spice.
Due to its medicinal properties, the maitake mushroom is used not only in the preparation of dishes but also in various tea mixtures.
But it can also be obtained in capsules and tablets because it prevents the development of many diseases.
It contains vitamins B and C, minerals tin and copper, amino acids, fiber, antioxidants, and beta-glucan.
With its medicinal properties, it raises the body’s immunity and destroys tumor cells, and by doing so, the body manages to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
In addition, maitake can lower cholesterol in the blood, thus preventing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, it is successful in the treatment of diabetes, regulates blood pressure, and helps the body to fight viruses and bacteria.
How to use maitake mushrooms in the kitchen?
Maitake mushroom can be prepared in many ways, and there are many recipes in which it is used, be it as the main star of the dish, as one of the ingredients, or as a spice if added in powder form.
You can cook maitake soups and prepare them on the grill. They can be part of delicious omelets, pizzas, vegetable dishes, or fried in sesame or olive oil.
If you decide to fry maitake in oil, it is best to do so in a deep fryer, as this mushroom has extremely thin cap edges.
Maitake can absorb and emphasize the aroma of the food it is prepared with, so because of this feature, it will give you greater pleasure in enjoying the same dish, which would be poorer without it.
But that’s not all that maitake, like all other mushrooms, can offer because this mushroom, in addition to the four familiar tastes, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, as if performing its magic dance, will provide you with the presence of a fifth, new, taste. That unique taste is called umami.
What is umami taste?
Translated from Japanese, the word umami means the essence of taste. It is described as an aroma that produces taste. What we describe as umami taste is our ability to sense glutamate.
Glutamate is an amino acid that makes proteins. It is found in our body but also mushrooms, aged cheeses, salmon, green tea, tomatoes, and many other food products.
Umami has three properties that the other four tastes do not: it lasts longer than other tastes, spreads throughout the tongue, and causes an effect known as “mouthwatering.”
Suggestions for substituting maitake mushrooms
Each mushroom has its characteristics and enriches the dish in its way.
Many edible mushrooms could be offered as a decent substitute for maitake, but this time we preferred the mushrooms from this list.
They are on it for two reasons: each is a true delicacy, and what is also essential, you can easily obtain them.
- Shiitake mushroom
Shiitake mushroom is also called an oak mushroom or Japanese mushroom. In Asia, it grows naturally in forests, but worldwide it is successfully produced from mycelium kept under controlled conditions.
The stem of the shiitake mushroom is hard and woody due to too many fibers, so it is usually removed.
However, it’s a mistake because if that part of the shiitake mushroom is not suitable for frying or stewing, it can still be beneficial when you make broth.
It is rich in many minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium, plant fibers, amino acids, and B group vitamins that ensure the functioning of the adrenal glands and convert food into energy, but also improve brain function and balance hormones.
The medicinal properties of the shiitake mushroom improve the body’s immunity, detoxify the body, destroy tumor cells, and thus give us extra energy.
It has an anti-cancer effect and alleviates side effects after chemotherapy and radiation.
It protects the pancreas and liver, regulates blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol.
It helps to destroy viruses and bacteria. It is particularly effective against pathogenic microorganisms in the oral cavity.
- Oyster mushrooms
The Latin name of these mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, describes their appearance as oysters.
However, an additional inspiration for such a name can be how oyster mushrooms are fed. They are carnivorous fungi and feed on nematodes.
With their toxin, they paralyze the prey and cause the formation of pulp, which makes it easier to use this food source.
Oyster mushrooms grow in tight clumps that resemble sod. In nature, they often develop on the stumps of wild chestnut, beech, and hardy trees in deciduous forests. However, under controlled conditions, it is successfully grown on straw.
They are not eaten raw, but they are delicious if prepared on the grill or thermally processed in some other way. They can also be obtained in a dried state. Their taste is mild and reminds of the smell of anise.
They can be fried in oil or used for soups, pasta, sauces, or stews.
Oyster mushrooms also have medicinal properties. Among other things, they influence the lowering of cholesterol in the blood and thus prevent the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
They are rich in antioxidants, such as selenium and beta-glucan, and are successful in stopping the growth of tumor cells.
Oyster mushrooms’ high percentage of vitamins and minerals significantly affects brain health.
Some of them are niacin B3, which helps with various forms of dementia, and riboflavin B2, which has a therapeutic effect on motor neuron disorders.
- Shimeji mushrooms
Shimeji mushrooms are also known as beech mushrooms because, in nature, they often grow on stumps or decayed beech trunks. In controlled conditions, it is grown successfully on various substrates.
Their stems are slender and grow from a common base. Their hats are small and round. The texture of shimenji mushrooms is crunchy, and the taste is umami and nutty.
They soften and lose the bitterness they normally have in their raw state by cooking. They are prepared in soups, various vegetable stews, stews, or as a side dish to meat dishes. They are also very tasty in an omelet or pasta.
When you thermally process them, you should pay attention so that they do not lose their crispness and firmness.
Shimeji mushrooms are rich in fiber, protein and minerals, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
They have anti-cancer properties and reduce the risk of stroke due to hypertension because they successfully lower blood pressure.
- Enokitake mushrooms
Enokitake is a name derived from the Japanese language, and in China, it is known as “golden needle mushroom.” In contrast, its name is translated from the Korean language as “mushroom planted near catalpa.”
Enokitake grows in dense bundles that are attached to a common base. They have long, thin stems.
In enokitake that are produced under controlled conditions, the caps are small and white, while in those that grow in nature, the caps are larger, the stems are shorter, and their color ranges from brown to orange.
Interestingly, enokitake is grown under controlled conditions in the dark and in an area saturated with carbon dioxide.
It encourages the stems to elongate and retain the white color. This specific method of production means that the mushrooms are crunchy.
They have a mild taste and can be eaten raw. Very little time is needed for their preparation. After 2-3 minutes of frying in oil, they will be ready.
If you are cooking soup or ramen with enokitake, you should add them almost at the end, approximately in the last three minutes.
It will prevent the enokitake from losing its crunchiness, and the dish will change its texture.
Due to the possibility of eating them raw and naturally crunchy, enokitake mushrooms are a real delicacy when added fresh to salads.
Omelets with enokitake mushrooms are excellent, and the same can be said for curry, risotto, or sushi.
They can be used for up to a week if stored in the refrigerator.
They contain vitamin B, and pantothenic acid, which is used in the human body to synthesize fatty acids, niacin, fiber, and a whole host of different nutrients.
Among other medicinal properties, they successfully regulate cholesterol and affect the vitality of brain cells.
In addition, they are anti-carcinogenic, and due to the thiamine they contain, they control the functions of nerve cells.
- Portobello mushrooms
The mushroom Agaricus bisporus appears on the market under two well-known names: portobello mushrooms and cremini.
Those are two names for different stages of maturity. Portobello mushrooms are in the mature stage.
They are the largest, and their color is dark brown. Cremini is in the middle stage of maturity.
Portobello mushrooms have large, fleshy caps, which are excellent for grilling because of this feature. They average about 6 inches in diameter.
In addition to grilling, large caps are also suitable for stuffing, and they can be used chopped in many stews, pastes, or sauces.
It is edible raw, so it is suitable for salads.
Among the medicinal properties of portobello mushrooms, it should be noted that they are rich in selenium, phosphorus, copper, and potassium.
It is successfully produced under controlled conditions. Previously, they were often grown in caves or tunnels.
- Cremini mushrooms
As we have already said, cremini is in the middle stage of maturity of the mushroom Agaricus bisporus.
Therefore, they are harvested before the cap opens. The size of their diameter is from 1 to 3 inches. Their color is brown, and they taste milder than portobello mushrooms.
Due to the higher percentage of water they contain, they are juicier than portobello mushrooms.
You can prepare these mushrooms in all possible ways, and the list of dishes they would fit perfectly is endless.
Since they are edible raw, the list could start with salads, sauces, pasta, risotto, and stews, and grilling or frying in oil.
The exciting thing about cremini is that the older they get, the color starts to change to a darker one, and they become drier and have a slightly different taste.
And as a final suggestion for replacing maitake, here is a mushroom that has earned its place on the list solely because of its characteristics: its outstanding appearance and perfect taste. Unfortunately, chanterelles are not as easy to get as the other suggestions.
It is possible to produce chanterelles under controlled conditions, but their specific requirements make them much more challenging to grow.
Chanterelles need the roots of certain types of trees with which they live in symbiosis, but even that is not the end of the picky conditions required by this fungus because it only grows on a particular soil.
The journey to your table for wild chanterelles is lengthy and begins mostly in May when tireless collectors find them and carefully place them in their wicker baskets.
Chanterelles are a gorgeous orange color with a cap that resembles an umbrella.
According to many parameters, it is among the best-quality mushrooms worldwide. Add chanterelles to a simple omelet, and you will get a gastronomic symphony. The same goes for risotto and pasta.
Well, if it enriches these simple dishes like that, can you imagine what happens when combined with some other foods in slightly more demanding recipes?
If you haven’t tried chanterelles before, do it as soon as possible, and you won’t be disappointed.
But that’s not all this magical mushroom has to offer because it’s not called the guardian of health for no reason.
Chanterelles contain eight essential amino acids, are a natural source of antibiotics, and have a handful of vitamins from the B group, provitamin A, vitamins D2, and C.
They are low in calories and recommended for people who want to stay slim. It regulates digestion and heart rate because it is rich in potassium and because calcium, which also contains, successfully affects bone health.
There is also phosphorus and magnesium, which ensure the proper functioning of the heart and blood flow and the brain’s functioning.
If you are in a situation where you need to find a substitute for maitake, we hope that you will be relieved after reading this article.
Because not only are there alternatives that would solve your problem, but it would also be recommended that sometimes on your initiative, and when you have no reason to look for a substitute for a mushroom that is required by the recipe, you go on an adventure and start combining the flavors that the mushroom kingdom offers you.
What’s for sure, with any of your choices, the umami taste is guaranteed.
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