Maitake Chicken Soup

Maitakes at Kenny’s ‘shroom Shack  at Golden Hill Farmers’

Winter is finally here, leaving many of us with the sniffles.  What better welcome home on a chilly day than a hot bowl of maitake chicken soup.  This week’s recipe features maitake mushrooms, as well as other immune-boosting soup ingredients.

Maitake Mushrooms

Maitakes grow in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. In Japan, maitakes growing to more than 50 pounds have been found, earning this giant mushroom the title “King of Mushrooms.”

Maitake mushrooms are native to north eastern Japan and North America.  Maitake mushrooms have been consumed in Asia for thousands of years, often in hot pot soups or fried in butter.

The mushroom’s Japanese name “Maitake,” means “dancing mushroom.”  This name is rumored to allude to those who find it growing wild in the woods dancing for joy.  They have also been said to look like a cluster of fluttering butterflies.  The mushroom is also known as Hen of the Woods, Monkey’s Bench, and Sheep’s Head. 1

Research indicates maitakes have the ability to regulate the immune system, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and serum lipids.  It is also used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine to stimulate the immune system. 2

Maitakes are rich in minerals (such as potassium, calcium and magnesium), various vitamins (B2, D2 and niacin), fiber, amino acids, and beta-glucans.  Beta-glucans are polysaccharides, known as “biological response modifiers” because of their ability to activate the immune system. 3

Chicken soup is considered a cure-all that spans cultures around the globe.  Each of the week’s soup’s ingredients has healing properties:

Carrots are high in vitamin A which strengthens the immune system.

Celery naturally contains nitrites and butylphthalide, which lower blood pressure.

Garlic’s bioactive compound, allicin, has immune boosting, and anti-fungal properties.

Onions contain quercetin, an anti-inflammatory bioactive compound commonly used to treat seasonal and pet allergies.

Dark greens, like parsley and kale, are nature’s multi-vitamin, containing a multitude of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium.

Turmeric, a main ingredient in curry powder, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.

Ginger contains gingerols, volatile compounds which have anti-bacterial properties.

Chicken provides protein, which is used in the production of immune cells.  Chicken bones release calcium into the broth, and chicken cartilage dissolved in the broth may help strengthen joint tissue.

Inhaling the vapors of the chicken soup may aid in clearing congestion.

When one is sick, reading a good book and/or sleeping is likely more appealing than making soup.  Thus one may wish to make the soup while one is well, eating it to prevent illness, and freeze some in single serving containers to heat up if one does become sick.

Maitake Mushroom Source Disclaimer:  The Fun Food Feed encourages readers to purchase maitake mushrooms from reputable suppliers, like San Diego’s ‘shroom Shack.  Mushroom foraging carries the risk of misidentification of mushrooms, and potentially consuming poisonous species.

Maitake Chicken Soup

Preparation Time:  20 minutes

Cooking Time:  2 hours

Yield:  4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup maitake mushrooms, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
4 cups box chicken broth
2 large leaves kale, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
Optional: 1/2 Tablespoon ginger, sliced & 1 teaspoon curry powder

Equipment:

measuring cups & spoons
cutting board
knife
large pan & crockpot or stockpot
spatula

Directions:

1.  Brown chicken in olive oil in pan/pot on medium heat.

2.  Add onions to pan and saute until begin to brown.

3.  Add carrots and celery and saute.

4.  Clear section of pan/pot.  Melt butter in clearing and add mushrooms, garlic, and optional ginger and curry powder.  Saute until soft.

5.  Add broth.

Bring soup to boil.

6.  Place kale and parsley in slow cooker, (or if using a stock pot, simply add kale and parsley to soup).

7.  Slow cook soup covered on high, (or simmer in stock pot) until chicken is cooked through, and vegetables tender, about 2 hours.

8.  Serve hot with crackers, or bread and butter.

Can be stored in individual servings in freezer for up to 3 months.

References:

1.  Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database

2.  Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H (2003). “Effect of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the activation of NK cells in cancer patients”. Journal of Medicinal Food 6 (4): 371–7.

3.  USDA National Nutrient Database

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