WHAT IS HEN OF THE WOODS?
Hen of the Woods is also known as ram’s head, sheep’s head or by the Japanese name maitake. These mushrooms look a bit like a clumped up mess. But they are delicious! Their caps grow in multiple, overlapping layers unlike most other mushrooms. Hen of the Woods has an earthy smell and meaty taste. People will talk about “hunting” for these guys, but much like snail “hunters” for escargot, that’s gathering not hunting. The mushrooms tend to grow around the base of harwood trees like oaks. While the “leaves” of the mushroom are tender, the stalk can be a bit tough and hold up better to longer periods of cooking. If you are a fan of the flavor of Morel mushrooms, hen of the woods might be a good addition to your larder as well!
WHY ARE HEN OF THE WOODS GOOD FOR YOU?
It has the fiber, protein and other benefits common or rumored to be common to most mushrooms – Vitamin D, cancer fighting, antioxidants, protection against diabetes, etc. However for some this species of fungus can cause an upset stomach. So if this is your first time trying this mushroom, take it easy!
WHEN ARE HEN OF THE WOODS IN SEASON?
They are a fall mushroom that sprouts up overnight when temperatures drop below 60 ºF or 16ºC. This particular breed has a short but very reproductively prosperous season. So you’ll either have trouble finding them or be overwhelmed with a sudden population explosion.
HOW SHOULD HEN OF THE WOODS BE STORED?
Same as with all mushrooms, store mushroom and papertowel in a ziplock bag in your refrigerator for a week or less. They can grow to quite a large size (up to several feet across). So be prepared to cut your bounty down into more serviceable portions.
NOT JUST FOR SALADS (FOR YOU ASPIRING BIG GAME MUSHROOM HUNTERS)!
Chef Linda Hampsten, the owner of the Chicago restaurant The Bindery, has a nice Escargot and Hen of the Woods pizza recipe for a change of pace. Click here to see more!