During the late Spring and early Summer months you may find yourself hiking and stumbling upon this brilliant orange fungus. Despite some popular beliefs this beautiful orange color is not a sign to stay away. No, this is actually a delicious and often sought after edible mushroom.
It may come as no surprise that many compare the texture and taste of this mushroom to that of chicken. In my experience the consistency of this mushroom is very close the the stringy texture of cooked chicken, but comparing the flavor to chicken is a stretch. However, if seasoned correctly it can make a convincing imitation. My favorite way to prepare this mushroom is too cut the fans into strips and then bread and fry.
Two different species of chicken of the woods are most commonly found in the United States and they usually share the same habitats. Although they are both edible, there are few easy ways to tell them apart. Laetiporus sulphureus is generally more on the yellow side of orange. The genus name sulphureus comes from the root sulfur and describes yellow color of the pore surface on the underside of the mushroom. The leading edge of the fans will be yellow as well. Laetiporus cincinnatus is easily differentiated by its white pore surface and fan edges. This species also tends to be a more vivid shade of orange making those white surfaces really pop.
There are a few notes to keep in mind when collection this wild mushroom. First and foremost, just like any wild mushroom, never eat any wild mushroom that you are not 100% positive in it's identity. First, many run into gastrointestinal issues when eating chicken of the woods, so it is a good idea to start slow if it is your first time eating the mushroom. Also, many that do not usually have gastrointestinal issues with chicken of the woods report issues when they eat any that grew off conifers. With that mentioned, chicken of the woods is a common and easily identifiable wild edible that you should keep an eye out for on your next hike.
If you are looking to pick chicken of the woods without even leaving your home, inoculated chicken of the woods blocks and logs are just one variety available with Fractal Fungi's custom order option.