Hen of the Woods

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Here in New England, we are are diving head first into fall with cold, cold nights. This is great news not only for bringing out the hats and scarves, but also for Hen of the Woods mushrooms. We are just on the cusp of its short but abundant season and looking forward to all things Hen.

But first, a little background on what is regarded as one of the most preferred edible mushrooms.

Hen of the Woods mushrooms, also known as maitake mushrooms or Grifola frondosa, are known as a “fall” variety, but can appear as early as August and as late as November depending on the weather. They have an easily identifiable shape made up of clustered leafy extensions and range from light tan to brown in color. They have an earthy flavor with a hint of spice and readily absorb other flavors once cooked. The texture is succulent yet semi-firm and so good even mushroom-haters could get past.

Now to the tasty part.

Hens are incredibly versatile and easy to cook. First, be sure to gently brush the mushroom clean. They grow at the base of oak trees and dirt is natural. The individual leaf-like pieces can be easily pulled apart and do not require slicing, although you may.

Pro tip: reserve the white base of the mushroom for making a stock later on.

One of the simplest preparations is to simply saute in olive oil with salt and pepper. The mushrooms are flavorful enough to stand on their own as-is. They can also be added to a multitude of dishes for added flavor, texture, and nutrition. These are excellent as a garnish on pasta, risotto, or eggs. Keep an eye out for some of our favorite Hen of the Woods recipes coming throughout the season.

Last, but not least: nutrition.

Mushrooms of all kinds have been used for their medicinal properties for millennia and scientific research is catching up to back these claims. Hen of the Woods in particular have been used for their high quantities of vitamin D2, immune boosting properties down to the cellular level, antioxidants, and protection against diabetes.

How are you enjoying Hen of the Woods mushrooms this year? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll feature our favorite recipes!

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