Chicken of the Woods is a great wild mushroom for rookie foragers to find. Simple identification and its flavorful versatility make it a fantastic ingredient. We’ll share tips on how to spot it, and how to cook chicken of the woods at home.
What Exactly Is Chicken of the Woods?
Chicken of the Woods is a yellow-pored mushroom with an orange cap that derives its name from its resemblance in flavor and texture to white chicken. Chicken of the Woods is often used by vegans as a tasty meat substitute.
Chicken of the Woods is a highly versatile mushroom that you can sauté naked in a pan, fry, grill, or even steam. Generally speaking, there are two types of chicken mushrooms. Laetiporus cincinnatus, which has a cream-colored underside, and Laetiporus sulphureus, often referred to as the Sulphur Shelf, which has a yellow underside. The white-underside chicken mushroom is thought to be the more delicious of the two.
Laetiporus cincinnatus grows above the roots of oak trees, whereas Laetiporus sulphureus grows on the wood directly. This polypore is best harvested when young, as it will be softer when cooked.
How to Find Chicken of the Woods in the Wild
The mushroom known as Chicken of the Woods may be found growing wild throughout the United States (particularly the Northeast). The best times to look for them are late summer and autumn.
Remember: Never consume any mushroom unless you are 100% certain that you have identified it correctly. To avoid serious negative health effects, beginner mushroom foragers should always seek professional help.
That being said, here are some tips to help you correctly identify Chicken of the Woods:
- Chicken of the Woods prefers hardwoods like oak, beech, and chestnut, and is rarely seen on conifers.
- Keep an eye out for a vivid orange mass forming on the trunk or base of dying hardwood trees or huge fallen logs. The more decayed the logs are, the more likely you’ll find Chicken of the Woods.
- This mushroom doesn’t grow on the ground like other mushrooms, but only on wood, and usually in clusters.
- The orange or yellow mushrooms gradually fade to light yellow or white at their outer edges.
- The mushroom’s bottom is lined with small holes or pores rather than gills or stems. If it has gills, you’ve got the wrong mushroom.
- Chicken of the Woods tends to grow in the same areas, year after year, so remember to keep checking back!
Can You Buy Chicken of the Woods in the Supermarket?
As it is difficult to grow commercially, Chicken of the Woods is almost entirely found in the wild. Furthermore, it can only be kept in a refrigerator for approximately one week before rotting, making it tricky to build a long-term storage solution for general customers. When these characteristics are combined, it becomes a delicacy that is often difficult to get.
However, freshly picked Chicken of the Woods may be available at a local vegetable market during the late summer/fall season.
Important Pre-Foraging Tips
Before you can learn how to cook Chicken of the Woods, you have to find some first. Here are some crucial tips to keep in mind before you start foraging.
- Always be 100% certain that you’ve identified the mushroom correctly before consuming it. It’s always a good idea to bring someone who’s had previous experience foraging chicken of the woods who can confidently help you identify the right mushrooms.
- Never consume uncooked wild mushrooms.
- It’s best to eat Chicken of the Woods as soon as possible once they’re harvested. Find mushrooms that are still soft and velvety and avoid those that are dry and hard.
- Avoid picking this mushroom from conifer or eucalyptus trees, as they can absorb toxins from the plant.
- It’s worth remembering that people with sensitive stomachs should be wary of any wild mushroom. It’s best to try a small amount and then wait 48 hours to make sure your stomach agrees with it.
Vegan Sautéed Chicken of the Woods Recipe
But how do you cook Chicken of the Woods? Try this delicious vegan recipe! The Chicken of the Woods mushroom is a perfect vegan alternative to chicken or meat, and with the right seasoning you can whip up a delectable dinner in under 30 minutes.
- 1 lb. chicken of the woods mushrooms
- 2 tsp. high-quality olive oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 2 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
- ½ cup of lemon juice
- ½ cup of white wine (dry)
- Brush off any dirt or debris before you begin. Run the mushrooms under the tap to thoroughly clean them.
- Next, cut away any tough parts near the base. Break up into sections and slice into small pieces.
- Heat a few drops of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to brown.
- Stir in the shallot and garlic, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon and parsley.
- When the shallots are tender and the mushrooms are cooked through, add a splash of white wine for extra flavor and continue to stir for 5 minutes.
- Once the mushrooms have been thoroughly cooked and marinated, serve and enjoy. Bon Appetit!
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