Edible mushroom - novice Season - Autumn Common names Hen of the Woods, Maitake. Sheep's Head, King of the Mushrooms, Dancing Mushroom
Scientific name meaning: Grifola is from the Greek Griphos meaning intricate. Frondosa is of Latin origin, from Frondosus, meaning leafy or full of leaves
Found at the base of oak trees, of which it is a weak parasite. It can also grow saprophytically
A rosette of grey-brown thin-fleshed fronds reaching up to 50cm across
Cream in colour and rounded. The pores run decurrently down the stem
While the outer flesh is grey-brown, the inner flesh is white
Giant Polypore (Meripilus giganteus) could be confused for Hen of the Woods.
However, the former is a parasite of Beech and has much thick flesh with yellow-brown, rather than grey-brown tones. It also reaches considerable sizes of over 1m.
Regardless, it is also edible
Use as a food A strongly flavoured, and somewhat sweet mushroom. Works well cooked in all manners - such as frying, stewing and baking. Hazards Some sources report that it causes gastric upsets in a small amount of people. The worst reported to us has only ever been excessive wind. However, like all new foods, a tolerance test is advised when first trying. Due to it growing at the base of oak trees, be mindful of any pollutants when harvesting for consumption.
Use in herbal medicine and medicine In Asia, Hen of the Woods, or Maitake, has been used for centuries to boost health and aid in the treatment of all manner of ailments.
Research is being carried out around the world on its effects in the treatment of many areas, as well as being under review for use as a treatment, including cancer, diabetes, HIV and AIDS. If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses None known - please let us know if you know of any. Importance to other species An important food source for gastropods.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!