Who You Calling Chicken?

With the cooler days of Spring and Morels behind us, summer foraging season is already in full swing! There are so many great things out there from now until fall, it may be hard to keep up!
But there is one mushroom that is actually out early this year that will, when harvested properly, continue to grow and produce until late fall. Not only is it one of my favorites to eat, but its also one of the most vivid and spectacular looking mushrooms out there!
With its bright orange hue, and beautiful fanned shelves, the Chicken of the Woods is easily spotted from far distances. The first one I ever found, I spotted from about 300 yards away!

Chicken of the Woods are part of the polypore family of mushrooms, which are a fairly distinctive group of fungus! They are typically a tough, almost leather like mushroom, with no gills, and no stalk. They typically grow on the side of trees, or sometimes right out of the ground in giant masses. There are a few really distinct features about Chicken of the Woods, which separates them from other shelf mushrooms. First of all, the color, as I mentioned before is almost fluorescent orange which is a dead give-away. If you cut away a piece, and look at the under-side of the mushroom very close up, you can see small pores all over the surface (thats where they get the name polypore from!). The final feature, which I personally find really neat, is this mushroom holds a LOT of water. When you are harvesting it, if your hands are not dripping with water by the time you are done, then the mushroom is probably past its prime.

Lets look at a few important tips about harvesting this magnificent beast!

Chicken of the Woods grows ON trees. As I have mentioned before, ALWAYS know what type of tree it is growing on. Polypores are parasitic in nature, meaning they take nutrients and toxins in from the tree they are growing on. NEVER harvest a mushroom growing on hemlock!

Always just trim the outer edges for eating!
Always cut just the outer edging of the mushroom. This keeps the root system intact, so that it can continue to produce throughout the year! Not to mention, the inside is really tough and not very pleasant to eat.
Never take more than you need! It only lasts about a week if kept cold, and freezes poorly. Considering this mushroom can get up to and above 35lbs., you could definitely take more than you need without even knowing it.

Couldn't believe we found this beauty this weekend!
I was very lucky this past weekend in finding this gorgeous harvest! While hiking the White Rocks trail in Cumberland Gap, VA, my friend spotted this beauty! We didn’t take much (enough for us and a little to give away to some fellow mushroom lovers). I would say there was at least 25 lbs of mushrooms in this bunch!

The neatest thing about this one, is it lives up to its name! It feels like, cuts like, taste like, and even has the same texture as chicken. It can be used in any dish as a chicken substitute. We used it in a delicious veggie stir fry!

Definatly keep your eyes open for this treasure of the woods and until next time, Happy Hunting!

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