Foraging for wild mushrooms is one of the most interesting hobbies that one can get up to these days. However, for people who are only recently going into foraging for wild mushrooms, the learning curve can often be steep and even potentially dangerous. There are a lot of wild mushrooms that are known to be extremely poisonous but look almost exactly the same as other mushrooms that are completely safe to consume. This means that even the slightest mistake in spotting mushrooms can result in disastrous results for the person who is foraging for the mushrooms.
The only way this can be combated is to have an intermediate step that beginners can utilize in order to strengthen their footing and gain some confidence. Chicken of the woods is a type of wild mushroom that is perhaps the best equipped for this task. There are many reasons for this that we can get into.
Why Chicken of The Woods Is Perfect for Beginners
Chicken of the woods has a very creative name that makes it a very memorable mushroom to remember. Even physically it is quite memorable. The bright yellow color is sure to make it quite easy to spot and very hard to mistake for anything else at all. Laetiporus sulphureus is the scientific name for this particular mushroom. The best part is that it is extremely easy to spot due to its bright color and it is also one of the tastiest mushrooms that can be found in the wild. This is exactly why it is known as chicken of the woods. The savory taste of the mushroom means that it can be used as a substitute for chicken in dishes without much of a difference in terms of taste. For people who are looking to decrease their protein consumption without replacing the taste cushion that they have built up in their lives, chicken of the woods is absolutely the perfect candidate for that job.
It is also extremely common and grows all across the eastern front of North America. As long as you can find a place that has lots of oak trees growing, you will be sure to be spotting a lot of chicken of the woods mushrooms as well.
While most mushrooms form a relationship of dual-dependence on their hosts which means that the host and the mushroom both need each other to continue feeding, chicken of the woods is a parasitic mushroom. Once you are able to spot a chicken of the woods mushroom, this is a signal that irreversible damage has already been done to the tree anyway and you are not really disturbing anything by removing the fruit. This is why it is considered to be environmentally friendly to harvest this particular mushroom as it has no negative effect on the environment.
Cooking Chicken of the Woods
Perhaps the biggest attraction of chicken of the woods is its flavor. The juicy and savory taste ensures that it can be the main star of a stew that will be remembered for years to come by the people who eat it. It can be fried and sauteed as well. Let’s explore a very simple chicken of the woods recipe.
The first thing that you need to do is to take a moist cloth and start cleaning the mushroom. You cannot pass it through running water as that can adversely affect the turgidity of the mushroom and ruin the overall taste. Make sure to be extremely gentle when wiping out any dirt. It is advisable to be very thorough with this process as well.
The next stage is to cut up the mushroom into smaller pieces. For people who know cooking, the reason is fairly obvious. Cutting up into smaller pieces increases the surface area that is exposed to the heat, making sure that the food cooks faster and more evenly. Make sure to cut it into small and even pieces. The size of the pieces is dependent on personal taste.
Take some olive oil or ghee and pour it into a pan. Start heating the pan for a few minutes with moderate heat. Take the chopped-up mushrooms that have had the requisite seasoning added according to your taste and add them into the pan. Now, the cooking process has started. Make sure to keep turning over the mushrooms so that the heat is applied all throughout the mushrooms and the cooking is extremely even. After a few minutes of cooking, a certain aroma will start to settle. This will be in sync with the changing of the color of the mushrooms. The mushrooms will start to turn darker due to the heat. If you like a crispier taste, you can keep on heating the mushrooms until they start to turn brown. After that, you should put the mushrooms on a plate and serve them as you see fit. Mushrooms are generally quite versatile and can fit in almost any dish as either the main attraction or a course on the side. Chicken of the woods in particular is a great example of this, with its extremely juicy taste making it one of the tastiest edible mushrooms out there.
So, this is a small guide to chicken of the woods. On the surface, it is quite easy as chicken of the woods is widely available across North America and has a few cousins as well that grow on the Western front. It is easily spotted due to its color and generally is the best bet for novice foragers who have just started their journey. It is a great first mission for people looking to get more seriously into foraging.