Edible Wild Mushrooms: Chicken of the Woods
"Chicken of the Woods" is an edible mushroom. Chicken of the Woods is Laetiporus sulphureus and it grows on decaying dead trees and can cause brown heart rot in live trees
Some species of Laetiporus are also commonly known as sulphur shelf, sulphur polypore, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus because some folks think it tastes a lot like chicken. And in some respects, after cooking, this mushroom has the texture of a tender cooked chicken.
These mushrooms have a distinctive sulfur orange coloring. Typically orange on the top and yellow underneath. Many have noted that it is easy to recognize in the wild and that there are no poisonous look a-likes.
These species of mushroom is wide spread throughout the United States. As a parasitic fungus, it feeds on oaks and other hardwoods.
I first ran across Chicken of the Woods this year in a food co-op where locally harvested mushrooms were being sold. Since one of my personal goals this year has been to try new things, I decided to give it a go and taste this delicacy. I must say, I really enjoyed it!
Nutrition and Health Benefits
All mushrooms are a great low calorie food. It has been reported that two cups of chopped Chicken of the Woods contains only 30 calories.
According to Master Gardener Sydney J. Tanner, these mushrooms are considered a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin C, and vitamins B, D, and K.
Cooking with Chicken of the Woods
It is usually recommended that Chicken of the Woods be cooked before eaten. Some mild allergies have been reported when eating this mushroom raw.
I personally chose to cook use mushroom in simple a wild rice dish, and I have used it in soups. It can also be dehydrated and stored for winter.
Wild Mushrooms and Rice
- 1 cup dried wild rice (I prefer Lundberg's Wild Rice)
- 2 cups water
- 1 veggie bouillon cube
- 1-2 cups of wild mushrooms, chopped
- 1-2 cups of celery (chopped)
- 1-2 cups of dark green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, etc.)
- 3-4 green onions, chopped
Other optional ingredients (1-2 cups each):
- Chopped carrots
- Chopped leeks
- Cooked chicken
- Can of bamboo shoots
- Can of water chestnuts
Simmer the wild rice in water and bouillon according to package directions (usually 40-60 minutes).
As rice starts to become tender (within 5-10 minutes of being done), add chopped vegetables and mushrooms.
Cook an additional 5-10 minutes. Vegetables should be tender but not overcooked.
This is a very versatile recipe. I tend to use whatever vegetables I have on hand. It can work as a stand alone main meal or as a side dish. Wild rice tends to be higher in protein and nutrients so the protein in both the wild rice and chicken of the woods mushrooms adds up.
I also use chopped chicken of the woods in some of the homemade soups I canned this fall. I added all the raw ingredients to the jars and water-boiled the jars for 10 minutes to seal.
Not to be confused with "Hen of the Woods"
While one might naively assume that "hen" and "chicken" are one in the same, when it comes to mushrooms, they are not. "Hen of the Woods" mushrooms are also edible but come from an entirely different genus (Grifola) and it looks entirely different. Hen of the Woods is also sometimes referred to as "Maitake" mushroom.
Hen of the Woods is also a polypore mushroom that also grows on oak trees. Polypores are leathery "poroid" mushrooms that lack a distinct stalk.
Mushrooms that have a porous layer on their fertile surface are said to be "poroid".
Foraging for mushrooms
It is always advisable that those new to mushroom hunting go with an expert or bring foraged mushrooms to an expert for verification. While Chicken of the Woods does not have any poisonous look-alikes, it's always best to play it safe and have your findings verified before eating them!
Copyright 2012, Kris Heeter, Ph.D.