Essay

Maitake Mushroom vs Shiitake: 7 Key Differences

Although they are both highly valued edible mushrooms, maitake and shiitake are unrelated and have different characteristics. However, because of their meaty texture and rich flavour, both species are highly prized in gourmet cooking. Both species are farmed commercially, however shiitake is significantly more common. If you dwell in China or Japan’s humid, temperate climates, you can forage for either species. Although some have even discovered both in the Appalachian Mountains, it’s more likely that the shiitakes simply wandered out of cultivation and into the wild.

However, they differ greatly from one another in terms of categorization, morphology, ecology, native distribution, and cultivation methods.

We’ll go over seven important distinctions between shiitake and maitake mushrooms in this article.

Continue reading to find out more.

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Classification

Griffola frondosa is the scientific name for maitake mushrooms. This species is a member of the Polyporeales order’s Meripidilaceae family of polypore mushrooms. The Latin term “frondosa” refers to the anatomy of this edible mushroom and meaning “leafy” or “full of leaves.” The term “maitake” in Japanese refers to “dancing mushroom,” alluding to legends of foragers who dance with joy when they come across this valuable species.

Lintinula edodes is the scientific name for shiitake. It is a member of the Agaricales order’s gilled mushroom family, Omphalotaceae. This species’ popular name in Japan derives from its preference for growing on the decaying wood of the South Korean and Japanese hardwood species, Castanopsis cuspidata, or shii tree. The Japanese term for mushroom is used in the name “take.”

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Morphology

It is not essential to examine the mushrooms closely to distinguish between maitake and shiitake. You will quickly discover that these mushroom species differ significantly in terms of their morphology.

Size

Maitake can reach remarkably big sizes. Grifola frondosa has a stout central stalk from which an abundance of brown-gray fronds grow in a rosette-like configuration; a single mature fruiting body often has dozens of fronds. A single frond’s diameter can grow up to 6 inches. While Griffola frondosa typically reaches a diameter of 24 inches and weighs up to 20 pounds, some foragers have found examples that have reached 60 inches in diameter and weighed more than 50 pounds. It is unlikely that you will come across farmed maitake that is nearly as big as wild specimens.

The shiitake fruiting body, in contrast, consists of a single cap that is positioned above the stem (stipe). A cap’s diameter usually ranges from 2 to 5 inches. The mycelium of Lentigula edodes typically produces flushes of individual fruiting bodies dispersed throughout hardwood substrate or in dense clusters. The size of the grown ones is typically comparable to that of the wild ones.

Pores vs. Gills

Maitake is a polypore mushroom, meaning that beneath its caps are vertical tubes that contain spore-bearing tissues known as pores. The pores of Griffola frondosa are lavender-gray to white, but as they age, they take on a yellow tint. Large and tooth-like, these pores extend at an angle along the stipe, sometimes reaching nearly to the base. This species has pore tubs that are 1-3 millimetres deep and have 1-3 pores per millimetre. The print of spores is white.

Shiitake mushrooms, in contrast to maitake, have gills as their tissue that produces spores. The gills have a pale to creamy hue. A partial veil covers the gills of an immature Lentigula edodes fruiting body. A thin layer of protecting membrane makes up the partial veil. Moreover, the spore print is white.

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Cap Morphology

The “caps” of shiitake and maitake mushrooms differ greatly from one another. The caps of Griffola frondosa are usually spoon- or fan-shaped, and resemble fronds more. Occasionally, they have faint, cream-colored, brown, grey, and yellow-brown concentric zones. These “caps” are smooth or slightly velvety, and their edges may have a subtle wave pattern. As they age, they have a tendency to turn yellow. Every cap fastens to the central stipe, which has several branches.

Young shiitake mushrooms have an umbrella-shaped, in-rolled-bordered cap that is chestnut brown in colour. The caps frequently have white, shaggy patterns that resemble rings around the edge and exterior structure. The mushroom’s top enlarges into the shape of a disc as it ages. As the mushroom grows, cracking across the cap is typical and might even be a desirable trait in cultivation.

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Ecology

As saprobic mushrooms, maitake and shiitake get their nourishment from decomposing organic waste. These species differ in where they grow on decomposing debris, though.

Maitake

The majority of maitake fruits are found on oaks and other hardwood trees. Grifola frondosa is not only saprobic but also somewhat parasitic, with the ability to fruit on living trees. Maitake often grows near the foot of a living host, where it reemerges each year in the late summer and early autumn. Maitake grows commonly east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, while there have been a few documented uncommon sightings in the Pacific Northwest. This species is also widely distributed throughout East Asian and continental European temperate hardwood forests.

White butt rot is caused by Grifola frondosa near the root of its host tree. Because maitake is only weakly parasitic, it takes years to maximise nutrient gain from the tree rather than killing its host fast. This adaptable fungus can continue to feed after it dies by concentrating on cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.

Shiitake

The shiitake mushroom is only saprobic, however maitake can be both saprobic and parasitic in nature. The deadwood of hardwood trees, particularly shii, chestnut, oak, maple, beech, poplar, and mulberry, is where this species most frequently fruits.

Another white-rot fungus that breaks down lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose in hardwood is called Lentinula edodes. White-rot fungus, such as shiitake and maitake, aid in the important cycling of nutrients and sequestration of carbon by breaking down this material.

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Cultivation

Maitake cultivation is significantly less common than shiitake culture, which is the second most commercially farmed species worldwide. This is partly because cultivating Grifola frondosa takes longer and is more difficult than cultivating Lentinula edodes.

It can be difficult to grow maitake inside, and it can take two to three years for mycelium to mature into fruit when grown outdoors. Since it is famously difficult for wild Griffola frondosa spores to spawn indoors, producers usually employ strains that have been specially engineered to withstand the obstacles of indoor maitake production. In general, this species is not thought to be a mushroom that is good for beginners to grow indoors. Although they will probably be significantly more successful, novice outside growers will require a lot of patience.

On the other hand, shiitake mushrooms are commonly grown by both novices and experts. This species may be cultivated inside, however it usually requires sterilising sawdust grown in sealed bags. Outside, however, it can fruit in as little as six months when grown on logs. The majority of gourmet mushroom growers provide plugs, spawn, shiitake indoor grow kits, and a wide variety of strains for cold- or warm-weather fruiting.

Maitake and Shiitake Key Differences: Flavor and Availability

Both shiitake and maitake mushrooms are regarded as exquisite, highly valued eating fungi. While maitake mushrooms have wonderful flavour profiles and textures, they are definitely more of a delicacy because they are not as readily available.

Shiitake

Fresh and dried shiitakes have a meaty, chewy texture and a rich umami flavour. Because the drying process increases the production of glutamate and guanylate, dried shiitake has an even more intense umami flavour.

Over the past ten years, shiitake mushrooms have become more and more popular in North America, where a number of large, well-known grocery store chains frequently carry both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms. Additionally, farmer’s markets, health food stores, and upscale dining establishments sell them. Fresh shiitake costs roughly $10–12 per pound in North America, and occasionally it’s much less at Asian grocery stores.

Maitake

The flavour of maitake mushrooms is richly earthy, nutty, savoury, and somewhat peppery. When the fruiting body is still young and fresh, that is the ideal time to harvest and prepare them. Often, mature specimens are too fibrous and rough to be enjoyable. When roasted till golden brown, the rich flavours and earthy scent are enhanced in the mushroom.

Maitake can be found at gourmet restaurants, health food stores, and farmer’s markets. It is also occasionally grown. The average price of fresh maitake is between $18 and 22 per pound in North America.