- Food and Cooking
Do You Eat the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom?
The Gourmet Mushroom That Tastes Like Chicken
If you do not eat flesh foods, or even if you do - you need to get acquainted with the "Chicken of the Woods" mushroom. It is one delicious, delectable, decidedly "downright" good mushroom - that tastes like chicken!
I first tasted the "Chicken of the Woods", when I placed an order for some gourmet mushrooms, as a gift for my husband. The company had a special on the Chicken of the Woods, so I thought we might like to try some. They were unbelievably good!
Needless, to say, they rapidly became one of our all-time favorite mushrooms. I only eat fish, as the flesh food in my diet, so I was particularly thrilled that I "stumbled" upon them. Imagine, living for well over half a century - missing one of the best taste sensations around!
Where Do Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms Grow?
The one in the photo above, is growing on the trunk of an oak tree. I am not certain what type of tree the one to the right, is - but it gives you an excellent illustration of how they grow. They also can be found on yew, cherry, sweet chestnut, red fir and willow trees - dead, or alive. Beautiful, are they not? Some people don't think they are beautiful, because they have the reputation of destroying any living trees that are their host. Nevertheless, their yellow-orange "shelves" are a bounty of good eating!
Chicken of the Woods can be found growing on live, decaying, or dead trees - in many areas of the world. They grow in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and we even found sources citing their existence in Africa.
Forestry Images: Credits to Paul Hennon, for his photo of Chicken of the Woods mushroom shelves.
Before you continue, tell us...
What do you know about the "Chicken of the Woods" mushroom?
100 Edible Mushrooms
You are sure to enjoy this interesting book about edible mushrooms, however, we want to caution you to POSITIVELY identify any mushroom that you find in the wild which you intend to ingest.
Even mushroom "experts" have been fooled!
If you want to be scientifically accurate, the name for these mushrooms, is Laetiporus Sulfureous, not "Chicken of the Woods". The name is indicative of their "sulfurous" color. This is just one species of the mushrooms commonly called the "Chicken of the Woods". There are other types, such as: Laetiporus gilbertsonii, which is pink, Laetiporus coniferica, and Laetiporus persicinus, and several more. As with any mushroom, do your homework! Investigate thoroughly, before ingesting - some are not suitable for eating, due to various toxic reactions on record.
There is a very informative article on the "Chicken of the Woods", on Wikipedia. "Chicken of the Woods, or Laetiporus".
There is also a mushroom called "Hen of the Woods". It is NOT the "Chicken of the Woods". Also called "Maitake", its scientific name is Grifola frondosa. It resembles a ruffled chicken; hence, the name. Both mushrooms are delicious!
Oh! Before I forget - there is another mushroom called the Fried Chicken Mushroom - botanical name "Lyophyllum decastes", and according to most people, it really DOES taste like fried chicken!
Chicken of the Woods Photos - Credits to Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest ServicesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest
According to the one of the authors, there are 466 species covered in this exhaustive book. He states that edibility is addressed, and the common names for the mushrooms are given over 50 percent of the time. He explains, on a comment we read, that some mushrooms simply do not have a common name, so they are referred to only by their botanical name. Great book!
How to Eat the "Chicken of the Woods"
These mushrooms are best eaten - fresh. They can also be purchased dried, and reconstituted, but they require slow cooking, on low heat, for a long time - due to their tough nature. If you have the time, it is well worth the wait, as they really DO taste like chicken!
This photo is from the Mushroom Master website, which was simply a feast for the eyes. They had pink mushrooms, blue mushrooms, yellow mushrooms, and a lot of information about exotic edible mushrooms. You would have enjoyed their site, immensely, however it appears they are no longer around!
We found recipes for Sautéed Chicken of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods and Beans, Shrimp with Chicken of the Woods, Trout with Chicken of the Woods, and Mustard Chicken of the Woods Supreme, online - just to mention a few.
Basically, they can be substituted for chicken, in any recipe you can concoct! Remember - go easy on them, if they are new to you. Some people do have reactions to them, but then, some people have reactions to dairy, wheat, and peanuts, too!
Small Book, Loaded With Big Ideas...
This book does not have a lot of pages, but it is whimsically shaped like mushrooms! Everyone who owns it, agrees - the recipes in it are wonderful!
For an out-of-the-ordinary mushroom cookbook, this one is perfect.
Fresh from Alaska
Two of my sons have lived in Alaska. One of them has property there, and has to trek quite a long distance to get to it. His location is so remote, that in order to get cell phone reception, he had to climb about 30 feet up a tree! We felt badly that he had to take that much effort to contact us, but it was always good to hear from him.
The photo to the right was sent to us, from his cell phone, when he came across a large growth of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms while hiking. I was so thrilled to get it. I believe HE was shocked to see them in such profusion.
He didn't eat any of them, but was glad to see there was another source of food available - free for the taking!
Where Can I Buy Them? - That's a good question!
When I first wrote this article, I did not know. We have had a hard time finding any, ourselves. At the moment, we content ourselves with eating the "Hen of the Woods", or Maitake Mushrooms. They are also delicious, and reconstitute with water, beautifully!
Since then, we have found two places where they can be purchased.
They are seasonal, though. We told you that we would let you know when we found some sources, and if more become available, we will share them, too. They are usually a seasonal purchase, so you may have to be satisfied while you are waiting, with the "Hen of the Woods" mushroom, which is an excellent substitute.
You could also grow them yourself - as we mention, below...
A Word of Caution
Despite many references to the "Chicken of the Woods" being a mushroom that is unmistakeable, and therefore easy to identify in the wild, I found a few places that conflicted with that opinion. Even though the mushroom is quite distinctive, there are a very few species that resemble it, which have been implicated in poisonings. As with ALL mushrooms - it is better to be safe, than sorry. I prefer to purchase ours, from reputable growers, to allay all concerns.
Also - reportedly, in some people, they can cause gastric upset - so eat a small amount, until you are certain they will not do that - to you! Easy does it, especially on your first sampling. Try a minute amount, and eat only young, fresh growths. The older ones are usually implicated in allergic reactions people have experienced - most commonly: swollen lips, and once in a while nausea, and vomiting.
See the Wikipedia article about them, mentioned under our heading above - Botanically Speaking.
Wait A Minute! Here are some options, so you can grow your own!
What is the best way to eat Chicken of the Woods mushrooms? Why, you can grow them yourself! We have successfully grown mushrooms at home, right on our counter top. I have not grown this particular variety yet, but that is about to change!
Other Names for the Chicken of the Woods
- Sulfur Mushroom
- Chicken Mushroom
- Sulfur Shelf
- Chicken Fungus
More on the Chicken of the Woods
- Chicken of the Woods info from the UK
Nice, short description from the Norfolk Trust website -
- Cornell University Blog on the Chicken of the Woods
The author, Elan Margulies, wrote an excellent exposé, on the Chicken of the Woods, on this page. Worth a visit -
- Abstract from Mycologia Organization
For a "textbook view", visit this site -
Have You Eaten Chicken of the Woods?
If you have, let us know. Did you pick them yourself, or purchase them? Which variety did you eat? What is your favorite mushroom? If you love mushrooms, as we do - you are "bound" to have a favorite! What is it?
Tell us, in the comments section, below...
© 2011 Emily Tack