No, we're not talking about Chicken of the Sea. Please don't alert Jessica Simpson. Instead, we're looking into chicken of the woods mushrooms. These wild mushrooms, also known as Laetiporus sulphureus, are a type of edible mushroom that supposedly taste like chicken. Their edibility can depend a little bit on factors like what they're growing on, but for the most part, they're considered a type that mushroom hunters can eat. Let's take a closer look.
What Are Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms?
Chicken of the woods mushrooms are also known as the Sulphur Polypore. They are a bracket fungus usually seen on "beech, oak, chestnut, and less frequently on cherry and other hardwoods," according to First Nature. They can be found on dead conifer stumps, too.
They are "...parasitic and saprobic on living and dead oaks," Edible Wild Foods reported. That outlet also noted that they were first described in 1789 by French botanist and mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, and the polypore was given its current name in 1920 by famous American mycologist William Alphonso Murrill. These or similar species grow across northern Europe and in some parts of North America.
There are around twelve different species of chicken of the woods in the Laetiporus genus, according to Mushroom Appreciation. Many of these species of Laetiporus can be found throughout the united states, so you should be able to find this mushroom where you live. L. sulphureus grow in the Eastern part of the U.S., as do Laetiporus cincinnatus. Meanwhile, Laetiporus conifericola (L. conifericola) grows in Western North America while Laetiporus gilbertsonii grows on the West Coast. They are sometimes called chicken fungus, chicken mushroom, hen of the woods, or sulphur shelf.
What Do They Look Like?
Chicken of the woods mushrooms tend to be fan-shaped or semicircular. Fruiting bodies "...are bracket-form, broadly attached with yellow, round pores," Edible Wild Foods says, noting that they are usually bright yellow to bright orange when they're young and fade as they grow, similar to chanterelles. They usually grow in large clusters that overlap.
When young, these mushrooms are usually soft and spongy, and get thinner and paler as they mature.
What Do Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms Taste Like?
These are a favorite of foragers because many people think they taste like chicken! It's safe to say a meal that would normally include fried chicken could be replaced with these mushrooms for someone who's vegan or vegetarian.
There are lots of recipes out there for chicken of the woods, and they can be easily cooked in olive oil with other tasty ingredients like garlic, onions, or shallots.
However, as with most edible mushrooms, some people can have an allergic reaction to them. They can cause nausea or gastric distress for some people. Edible Wild Foods also notes that ones growing on yews, conifers, or eucalyptus can absorb some of those oils and can result in "serious distress." So be careful where you pick them from.
If you aren't 100 percent sure that you have the right mushrooms, it's best not to eat these unless you have a skilled forager there to identify them for you. But if you've got them on hand, go nuts! And let us know if they really taste like chicken to you.