Scientific Name(s): Laetiporus sulphureus
Where: dead trees in the woods
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates
Dangers: Laetiporus mushrooms growing on pines or eucalyptus trees develop compounds which will cause extreme stomach distress, though probably aren't fatal.
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Clusters of chicken of the woods growing along a downed tree.
Chicken of the woods growing on dead tree roots.
Close-up of top of mushroom.
Side view of chicken of the woods.
Closer side view of mushroom.
Even closer side view after part was harvested.
Underside of can be white or yellow.
Chicken of the woods diced up and cooked in a little butter with garlic and Italian parsley.
Chicken of the Woods mushrooms are considered a great beginner's mushroom because there's nothing else out there that looks like this. The bright orange color is lacking in other similar-shaped shelf mushrooms. It's this color that makes it so easy to spot Chicken of the Woods in the gloomy, damp, hardwood forests it prefers. Look for them on dead or dying oak, pecans, and sweetgum trees during the warmer months. Note that even if they're going on a live tree they are killing it from the inside. You don't want to find this mushroom on a favorite tree as that tree won't be alive much longer. On the plus side, a tree producing Chicken of the Woods will continue to produce these mushrooms for years, until the tree has rotted away.
The top will have bands of "Cheeto" orange stripes while the bottom will be white or yellow in color. Chicken of the Woods don't have gills or false gills, releasing their spores via tiny tubes. The texture should be soft and flexible and moist like a raw chicken breast. As they mature they get firm and tough though the tough areas can be trimmed away. I like to dice up the mushroom into small cubes and sauté them with garlic in a touch of butter. These mushrooms can absorb a lot of butter or oil, leading to a heavy, oily flavor if too much oil is used. If you don't want to use the mushroom right away the best way to keep them is to pickle them using in a cup of vinegar + 1.5 tsp salt + 3 cups water then hot-can them like pickled okra. Additional spices can be added. Freezing these mushrooms can lead to an off flavor whereas pickling seems to hold the flavor the best.
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