Common dietary advice almost always includes some variation of the phrase, “Eat more fruits and vegetables for good health.” Pick up most diet books, talk to the health professionals, and look at the research: fruits and vegetables are nutritional superstars.
Less often do we hear the phrase, “Eat more mushrooms for good health,” and if we look at the research, one may wonder why we neglect to include our fungal friends in the dietary limelight. Perhaps we tend to lump them into the category of vegetables (this is what I was taught to do in my nutrition classes, for example, when creating meal plans), though if we study the biology of mushrooms, they more closely resemble fruits in their reproductive roles. Or perhaps here in the United States, mushrooms just haven’t found their way into our national cuisine (though edible fungi have been on this continent far longer than bread and boxed cereal).
Whatever the reason, it’s all a bit unfortunate. Many mushrooms are quite nutritious, and many are medicinal. I’ve previously written about the nutritional benefits of morel mushrooms, and would now like to explore the world of yet another equally impressive fungal ally.
The maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), also known as “sheep’s head” or “hen of the woods,” is a polypore that grows at the bases of oak trees. In addition to its culinary versatility (one of my favorite choice edibles from the fungal kingdom), the maitake mushroom has been researched extensively for its nutritional and medicinal effects…
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