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Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms – An Introduction

Chicken Of The Woods Mushrooms

Chicken of the woods mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) are sometimes called sulphur shelf, crab-of-the-woods, or sulphur polypore. It is a type of mushroom that’s very easy to distinguish. It has an impressive size and vibrant yellow-orange colors that really pop up in the forest. This large mushroom has surprised many lovers of nature the first time they find it out in the woods, and it will surprise you to know that they’re considered to be a delicacy in some parts of the world.

These mushrooms have a lemony, meaty taste, remarkably similar to the taste of Chicken and the texture as well, hence its name. However, some people describe the flavor to be more similar to crab or lobster. Either way, it has a truly unique flavor and many use it as a substitute for meat in their diet.

If you want to learn more about Chicken of the woods mushrooms whether because you’re curious or because you happened to find one, today we will discuss all the essentials you need to know and we will show you how to cook them so you can enjoy lovely Chicken of the woods mushrooms recipes whenever you want.

Chicken Of The Woods Mushrooms Essentials

  • Chicken of the woods mushrooms are polypores, meaning they disperse spores through small holes found under their caps.
  • Their species is saprotrophic, meaning Chicken of the woods mushrooms feed on dead trees and also parasitic, meaning they attack and kill living trees, causing the wood to rot.
  • Chicken of the woods are always found growing on the base of living or dead trees.
  • They also form large clusters of overlapping brackets and have a vibrant yellow-orange color, which fades as the Chicken of the woods mushrooms grow old.
  • Chicken of the woods are also known as “Chicken fungus”, “sulphur shelf”, and “Chicken mushroom”.
  • There are around 12 species of Chicken of the woods mushrooms belonging to the Laetiporus genus. This article is solely focused on Laetiporus sulphureus.

Where To Find Chicken Of The Woods Mushrooms

Chicken of the woods mushrooms have been growing wild all over since ancient times and they’re most common in hardwood forests. They’re primarily found growing in the eastern United States. Some varieties of this mushroom can also be found in the western coast of North America and in Europe. They’re not scarce, so you can find them at local markets, specialty stores and there are kits sold online to enable you to grow them at home.

Their growing season is late Spring to Autumn.

How To Identify Them 

Chicken of the woods mushrooms are easy to identify, so easy that it’s a safe species for beginner foragers to start with. We recommend you consult with an expert as well, but here’s what you should look out for: the cap and stem.

Chicken of the woods mushrooms have no real stem. However, the caps grow in large brackets making individual “shelves” from 2 to 10 inches across and up to 10 inches long. The brackets resemble roughly the shape of a fan and they have a smooth to slightly wrinkled texture. They grow stacked on top of the other, so the Chicken of the woods mushrooms can be quite large. The color of the outside cap ranges from white-yellow to white-orange. The older the mushroom, the more faded the color.

It’s also worth noting that the spore print of the Chicken of the woods mushroom is white, but it’s difficult to get because the caps are overlapping one another. It’s unlikely you’ll need a spore print to identify Chicken of the woods mushrooms, but we thought it was worth mentioning. 

These mushrooms don’t really have any look-alikes, although Maitake mushrooms, sometimes known as the hen-of-the-woods are confused with them simply because of the similarity of the name not their appearance.

How To Grow Chicken Of The Wood Mushrooms

Growing chicken of the wood mushrooms is a fairly straightforward. The most common method is using spawn and logs to inoculate them. The step-by-step process to grow them is as follows:

  1. Gather a few freshly-cut tree logs as the base of your mushrooms. Also, order your mushrooms spawn plugs in advance and follow the package instructions to find out how much spawn you will need to inoculate your logs.
  2. Get a multi-purpose driller and drill around 5 to 6 holes in each. Fill them with the spawn plugs and seal the edges with melted beeswax (you can melt your beeswax in a microwave or on a stove top).
  3. Place your prepared logs in a shady place outdoors to grow. If your area isn’t subject to semi-frequent summer showers, spray the log holes with water to keep them moist and encourage their growth.
  4. Wait for approximately 6 months or more for the first fruiting bodies to show up. For best and faster results, start growing the during April-May so they get the chance to grow fully on their peak season. Otherwise, you may have to wait nearly a year to start noticing significant growth.

Health Benefits

The main benefit is that Chicken of the woods mushrooms are edible, at least while they’re young because they get tough and brittle when they’re older. It’s a great substitute for Chicken, which means it can work for vegetarians, vegans and other special diets. It’s low-calorie and low-fat, but it’s a high-protein food and a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They’re also cholesterol-free!

Chicken of the woods mushrooms have a long history in European folk medicine. They were used to fight infection. In today’s world, studies have shown that these mushrooms contain a large number of biochemical constituents, many of which have medicinal characteristics.

This kind of mushroom is antioxidant, antibacterial, and has anti-carcinogenic properties. It can promote hormonal balancing and dental care, it’s anti-inflammatory, has antimicrobial properties and it help treat diabetes.

How To Cook Them

If you’re looking for a great recipe to try, you’ll first need to learn how to prepare the mushroom for cooking. The first thing you need to do is brush away any bugs, debris and dirt. If you find the texture is dry and woody near where it was cut, take this part away because it will be quite tough. For cooking, you only want to use the parts of the mushroom that are tender. Using a sharp knife, cut the mushroom as the recipe requires and get cooking!

If you want to try a recipe, here’s one you can serve as a side dish, an appetizer or add it to pasta or meat:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of Chicken of the woods mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth and chop them into small pieces. You can also tear them into small pieces using your hands, whatever you prefer. In a pan, add the olive oil and the minced garlic. Let it cook until it’s aromatic and be careful not to burn it. Then, add the mushrooms and cook them for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will then turn a vibrant orange. At this point you want to pour the white wine and cook for 5 more minutes. Then, add the tomato sauce and let everything simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, it will be ready to serve!

Conclusion

Chicken of the woods mushrooms are an amazing alternative to real Chicken. They are also very versatile in the kitchen. They have a unique flavor and they’re not difficult to obtain, which means you can experiment with them whenever you want.

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Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

 

David Moore

David Moore

A computer programmer for many years, I have an interest in mushrooms for culinary and health purposes. I feel that there are many people who might find that the inclusion of mushrooms as part of their diet would provide a boost to their well-being.

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