Chicken of the Woods

Am I the only person confused by mushroom taxonomy? Root Simple friend, Brother Lee, let us in on a well kept secret stash of delicious Chicken of the Woods mushrooms growing out of a diseased carob tree in a easily accessible public location. Figuring out the scientific name of this particular mushroom has proven a lot more complicated than harvesting.

Chicken of the Woods is listed in Clyde Christensen’s 1943 “Foolproof Four,” easily identifiable edible mushrooms that lack poisonous look-alikes which also includes Puffballs, Morels and Shaggy Mane. Alas, life is more complex and this “foolproof” list has changed over the years as lookalikes were found and DNA testing complicated the mushroom family tree.

In the case of Chicken of the Woods it turns out that what was once considered one species, Laetiporus, might actually be five or six. From what I can tell on the interwebs all are edible but some are associated with nausea in some people. Some mushroom pundits caution against eating Laetiporus found growing on conifers or eucalyptus. The very same mushroom pundits suggest thoroughly cooking all Laetiporus. I can report having consumed a lot of the mushroom we foraged with no ill effects. It was, in fact, one of the most delicious mushrooms I’ve ever consumed. But one should not trust the musings of an aging urban homesteading blogger when foraging for mushrooms. Find yourself a local mushroom nerd or run it past your cats.

That said, don’t be too fearful either or you’ll miss out on a free source of gourmet food. Chicken of the Woods is distinctive and still considered one of the easier mushrooms to identify. And, yes, it really does taste like chicken.

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