Also known as Chicken Mushroom, Chicken of the Woods is one of the easier wild mushrooms to identify.
It is considered a prime edible, and one of the relatively “foolproof” mushrooms.
But you still need to be careful.
Chicken of the Woods is a shelf mushroom. Another common name for it is Sulfur Shelf.
It grows in overlapping clusters.
The tops of the brackets display lovely shades of orange / yellow.
Underneath you will find pores, not gills.
This species has a yellow pore surface. It grows on dying hardwood trees, stumps or logs.
There are are occasional reports of gastric upset and other reactions when consuming chicken mushrooms.
This may be due to individual allergies, toxins absorbed from the substrate (eucalyptus, Eastern hemlock, cedar and other conifers have been mentioned), improperly cooked mushrooms, or other reasons.
Although it is easy to safely identify Chicken of the Woods, eat only a small sample of the cooked mushroom on your first try. This will help to avoid possible tolerance issues.
Harvest only fresh, moist mushrooms. If the brackets are dry and not moist. or the bugs have gotten there first, it's too late!
Break or cut into bite-size pieces. Then substitute into any recipe that calls for chicken and see how you like it!
Try this delicious vegetarian version of "chicken" soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
4 stalks of celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 lb. Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, in thin strips or small chunks
8 cups broth, any type
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons mixed herbs – thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary work well
1/2 lb. egg noodles
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened.
Stir in the mushrooms, broth, herbs and spices. Return to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add noodles and cook according to package directions, until noodles are al dente.
Taste, and adjust seasonings.
Enjoy this taste of the wild!