Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

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(Scientific Name: Laetiporus sulphureus) Not to be confused with Hen of the Woods, this mushroom variety also is leafy in shape like the Hen of the Woods, both of which grow in a semi-circular form around tree trunks or stumps. Colorful when young, the Chicken of the Woods begins forming with multiple thick, pedals that develop a bright ivory and yellowish-orange coloring on a velvet-like outer skin. As it matures, it becomes thinner and speckled with many small dark brown spots that develop into a mixture of tan and off-white shading as the fungus becomes shaped like a wrinkled fan with multiple leafy protrusions. When young, it is thick and juicy with a tender texture, becoming hard and brittle or crumbly as it ages. Also known as Sulfur mushroom, the Chicken of the Woods should be harvested when they are young and tender. Since it is a variety that may cause discomfort or reactions for some due to the toxins in this mushroom, caution is advised when eating this mushroom. Specimens that are found attached and growing on eucalyptus are considered inedible.

To prepare, clean the leafy sections thoroughly and cut away the woody core, using only the leafy sections of young tender specimens. If the mushroom is to be stored, keep it refrigerated and use within several days for the best flavor or cut into pieces, blanche or sauté and then freeze. The flavor which represents the name, tastes somewhat like chicken. Meaty in texture, it has a noticeable aroma and desired flavor that provides an excellent enhancement to rice, risotto, curry, and various chicken or poultry dishes, such as chicken and turkey casseroles. The mushroom can also be sautéed in butter, flavored with garlic, onions or shallots, and served as a side dish or an ingredient in egg dishes.

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