The Chicken of the Woods mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom for it’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. We will discuss the nutritional facts how to identify it and some of its uses.
If there was one kind of mushroom that has a special place in my heart then that would be the Chicken of the Woods mushroom.
As the name implies, this type of mushroom tastes just like chicken. Yeah, I know the phrase “tastes just like chicken” is what we usually use when we try to explain how something we can’t really explain tastes like but Chicken of the Woods really tastes like the real thing.
I can remember going to my father’s place around early fall and foraging for Chicken of the Woods on a nearby golf course. We would just slice the fresh mushroom and saute it with a little oil, salt, and pepper.
I think what makes this mushroom my favorite is because of just how big it gets. Most of the other mushrooms are a good appetizer but this one could literally feed you whole family for dinner.
And with it’s extremely high protein content, it is almost like you caught a wild chicken for dinner.
What is Chicken of the Woods Mushroom?
The Chicken of the Woods mushroom has has 18 distinct clades that fall under the Laetiporus clade with the same nutritional benefits but they look different:
- Laetiporus ailaoshanensis
- Laetiporus baudonii
- Laetiporus caribensis
- Laetiporus cincinnatus
- Laetiporus conifericola
- Laetiporus cremeiporus
- Laetiporus discolor
- Laetiporus flos-musae
- Laetiporus gilbertsonii
- Laetiporus huroniensis
- Laetiporus miniatus
- Laetiporus montanus
- Laetiporus persicinus
- Laetiporus portentosus
- Laetiporus squalidus
- Laetiporus sulphureus
- Laetiporus versisporus
- Laetiporus zonatus
They are all very similar in appearance with different shades of colors. Overall, it is a brightly colored fungus that is most often found in clustered nests. You can find them in trees both living or decaying.
My favorite one is the is the Laetiporus sulphureus clade but if you happen to find any version they are all good. One big difference between the L. sulphureus and the L. cincinnatus is the L. sulphureus has a cream colored pore surface while the L. cincinnatus has a white colored pore surface.
Most of the time they are found in oak but are found in other types of trees including:
- Cherry wood
The fungus attacks decomposing trees and helps to return the nutrients back to the earth.
If you have some dead Oak trees that are starting to decompose near you then be on the look in September and October for this mushroom.
Most full grown Chicken of the Woods grow anywhere from 2 to 20 inches across. The biggest brackets found in the wild can have a large fruiting body as big as 120 pounds.
The largest Chicken of the Woods mushroom was discovered by Ty Whitmore back in October of 2005. He cut it off of a maple tree next to a creek.
He then took it into a grocery store in Maysville Missouri to get it weighed. It weighed in at 56 pounds and was measured at 30 inches wide by 16 inches long.
Whitmore believes it should have weighed in at around 120 pounds because when he cut if off the tree the biggest half of it fell into the creek.
The probelm was when he cut if off the biggest part of it fell into the creek.
It’s always exciting to forage for these types of wild mushrooms because there is a chance you will find a large bracket that you can brag to your other forager friends.
One of the cool things of this mushroom is how soft an pliable it is when compared to other brackets like the Reishi. The Reishi is really hard compared to this one. Basically this is a choice mushroom when it comes to cooking it.
Chicken of the Woods Identification
Chicken of the Woods are part of what’s called bracket fungi. This means they have a fan-shaped to almost semi circular shape.
The texture can range from smooth to finely-wrinkled with a velvety feel. While young, they come in either bright yellow or bright orange while there are some that develop a reddish brown coloration.
When they mature, the brightness fades away. The flesh of the cap is soft yet thick with a watery feel. As it matures, the whole cap becomes tough and crumbles easily.
Chicken of the Woods mushrooms don’t have gills on the underside like the poisonous Jack-O-Lantern mushroom. Instead, they have small pores with a white spore print.
Chicken of the Woods mushroom are parasitic in nature, so they love to grow at the base of dead or dying hardwood trees.
You can never find Chicken of the Woods in an open field. They are commonly found in oak but you can find them is just about any type of tree.
The mushroom has a vast distribution throughout the North America, Canada, Europe, and some areas in Asia. Fruiting season can be found during summer and early fall depending on the location.
2 Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Look-Alikes
The cool thing about this mushroom is it is a great beginner mushroom. Meaning there are not really any major look-alikes to be worried of. Lets talk about the 2 closest look-alikes:
1) Chanterelle Mushroom
This mushroom does not really look like the Chicken of the Woods very much except that it is similar in the orange color. Even if you accidentally harvest this mushroom by accident it is not poisonous and would still be a great find.
2) Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom
This mushroom is also similar in the orange color however this one has gills on the underside while the Chicken of the Woods has tiny pores. So just check the underside and you should be safe.
Don’t accidentally eat this one though because it is poisonous and you will have a rough couple of days if you eat it.
Chicken of the Woods Nutrition Facts
Mushrooms have long known to be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. The Chicken of the Woods mushroom is no exception.
It is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, potassium, Vitamin C & A.
Nutrition Facts – Per 150 g (1 Cup)
- Calories: 50
- Carbohydrates: 9 g
- Dietary Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 21 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Potassium: 225 mg
- Vitamin C: 10% of daily recommendation
- Vitamin A: 5% of daily recommendation
21 Grams of Complete Protein!!! Good luck finding another vegetable that has that much protein in it for a 1 cup serving.
For people who are leaning towards a vegan or vegetarian diet, this can solve all your protein deficiency problems.
3 Chick of the Woods Medicinal Health Benefits
1) Ant- Inflammatory Benefits
The Acetly Eburicoic Acid present in this mushroom has been proven in studies to stop the activation of macrophages which then suppresses of inflammatory diseases.
Also, it contains exopolysaccharide (EPS) that induces the inhibition of pro-inflammatory mediators in cells.
2) Antibacterial Support
Studies have proven it to be an strong antibacterial and anti-fungal which will assist your body in fighting infection and will boost your immune function.
3) High in Antioxidants
High in antioxidants to include:
- caffeic acid
- chlorogenic acid
You can definitely tell it’s high in quercetin by it’s bright orange pigmentation.
This allows you body to fight off free radicals which cause the majority of cellular damage in the body. Which also can help in reducing cancerous tumor cells, relieve allergy symptoms and prevent neurological desease.
How to Cook Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
While my personal favorite is the simple slice and saute technique for chicken of the woods. Just throw so olive in a pan over medium heat and saute them for 10 to 15 minutes until a little browned.
Chicken of the Woods is just one of the many mushrooms that we can consider a delicacy alongside Shiitake, Oyster, and many more.
While here are multiple ways to prepare it, just remember not to consume it raw.
Chicken of the Woods, or most type of mushrooms for that matter, should not be eaten raw as it can cause GI distress.
If you happen to find an older mushroom than you may find that as you get closer to the center it gets harder and the outside remains tender. It is best to only saute the outer tender pieces and use the harder pieces in soups or teas.
3 Ways to Store Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
If you plan on keeping the mushroom, you can place it inside zip-lock bags and place it inside your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. They can last up to 3 weeks this way.
If you plan on harvesting a whole lot of Chicken of the woods for future consumption, you can just cut them up in pieces then place them inside the freezer in bags. They don’t lose their flavor after being frozen so you won’t have to worry about them.
Other people tried drying the mushroom but they lose their texture so they become less palatable.
Potential Side Effects or Risks
It is also worth noting that the mushroom can cause allergic reactions to some people. Nothing too dangerous but it can result in swollen lips.
Worst case scenario includes vomiting, dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. This only happens in some people when excessive amounts of the mushroom is ingested.
Another thing to be wary of is to check what kind of tree the mushroom came from. Chicken of the Woods mushrooms are parasitic by nature and can sometimes absorb the oils from the tree it lives in.
So when a Chicken of the Woods mushroom is found on a eucalyptus tree, it can often cause what feels like stomach flu due symptoms due to the amount of oil in the mushroom. Just stick to the mushrooms that grow on oak trees as they are the safest.
There is also a way for you to farm for Chicken of the Woods. However, it may take a little bit of effort and time on your end as they demand a specific type of substrate.
However, once you get the prep work done it’s all about ensuring you provide the right conditions for the mycelium to proliferate. After that, it’s all about waiting for the mushrooms to sprout.
My Dad ended up throwing some chunks of one of the Chicken of the Woods mushrooms that we harvested next to some trees in his back yard and then the next year it started growing there.
How about you? What’s your experience with Chicken of the Woods? Do you agree that it tastes just like chicken?
Also, would you rather eat a farmed one or a foraged one? Let me know on the comments!
On a side note, I am very happy to announce that our site just got recognized in the Top 15 Mushroom Blogs over at FeedSpot. I just want to thank everyone for reading and liking our content. Without you this site would not exist!
Also, if you like the Chicken of the Woods mushroom then you should check out the Turkey Tail mushroom because it is available almost all year round and is one of the most highly research mushroom for it medicinal benefits.
Now that you understand what Chicken of the Wood mushroom is, the nutritional facts, the medicinal health benefits, how to cook and store it. Now you just need to go out and find some.
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