A good tree can yield up to 50 pounds, but be wary of older fungi as they toughen and develop a sour flavor! If you have found a specimen worthy of collection, you can harvest the mushrooms and return the next year for another crop. Or cut just the outer edge (about 5 cm of the fungus) and return later in the season for a second helping. Be wary of Chickens growing on conifers (in the Northeast) as they are a different species and can cause poisoning. Chicken of the Woods can make a fine chicken substitute as long as you make sure to fully cook the mushroom.
Chicken of the Woods grows in trees that are either living or decaying. These mushrooms cause a reddish brown heart-rot of wood. If the mushrooms are seen fruiting, you can be sure that the fungus has already attacked the tree. They can destabilize a tree by hollowing out its center–this can be problematic for forest owners. Historically, this fungus was known to damage the wooden ships of the British Naval Fleet.
Based on the texture, taste and distinctiveness, this easily identifiable group of species can be a good starting place for those who fear the wild mushroom, as I used to do. For those who have found a Chicken of the Woods and would like cook with it, here is a delicious recipe for a Polypore Omelet care of Wild Mushroom Cookery.
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup diced Chicken of the Woods
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cream cheese
2 or 3 shallots, diced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
5 or 6 eggs
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat.
- Beat the eggs and cream, add salt and pepper to taste; pour into the pan.
- As the eggs start to cook, sprinkle the Chicken of the Woods, cheese, shallots and parsley over the top.
- Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more until the egg mixture sets.
- Fold the omelet over and remove from the heat; cover and let sit for 1 minute.