Foraging Chickens for Free

| 10/8/2013 8:58:00 AM

chicken fungiChicken of the woods mushroom, that is, a.k.a. Laetiporus species.

It’s a cliche in the food and foraging worlds to say that something “tastes like chicken,” but Chicken (capitalized because that’s how us mushroom hunters refer to it, with special emphasis and usually leaving out the “of the woods” part) actually does taste remarkably like chicken. Although its flavor is gently mushroomy, its color and texture when cooked are similar to the fowl of the same name.

Note that this is a different mushroom from Hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa), another choice, fowl-named mushroom that is also in season now.

Chicken, the mushroom, is fairly easy to spot. While other summer-through-fall mushrooms hide out among fallen brown leaves or on logs, camouflaged in the same colors as those leaves and logs, Chicken parades its bright mix of orange, yellow and creamy hues in a way that can catch your eye from a distance.

Chicken grows in overlapping caps on trees, logs and stumps. It has pores rather than gills, and a white spore print. The flesh of Chicken is creamy white, pink, or light orange. Size for a clump of Chicken can be anywhere from fist-sized to 2 feet across depending partly on how old it is when you find it.Also sometimes called sulphur shelf, this is a great edible mushroom for beginners to learn because there isn’t really anything else out there that looks exactly like it. Novices might possibly confuse Chicken with a mushroom called Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi), but that mushroom lacks Chicken’s bright orangey-yellow hues.

There is also a different species known as fried chicken mushroom (Lyophyllum decastes), but it’s a cap and stem mushroom with gills that doesn’t look anything like Laetiporus. Both Berkeley’s polypore and fried chicken mushroom are edible – they just don’t taste as good as Laetiporus in my opinion.

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