The chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) is a species of fungi in the Basidiomycota phylum. Its family is Polyporaceae. Its fruit bodies can be of all sorts of colors, usually yellow or orange. The species is primarily found in Europe and North America. Other common names include the "crab of the woods" and "sulphur shelf". In Germany they call it Schwefelporling, while in Russia it is known as Tрутовик серно-желтый.
The fruit body of the chicken of the woods is rounded, about 15 1/2″ (40 cm) wide, yellow, plicate. In older mushrooms, it is usually covered in a powdery coating. The unusual thing about this species is that the separate fruit bodies intermingle with each other. The tubes of the chicken of the woods are about 4-5 mm long. They are colored yellow and connected to the cap.
Once the mushroom reaches a certain age, it begins to secrete a kind of liquid. The flesh of chicken of the woods possesses a not-so-bad smell, as well as a specific unobtrusive sour nuance. In young mushrooms, the flesh is juicy and soft but with time it becomes hard. The spores of this species is white in color.
Picking and Storing Chicken of the Woods
Picking mushrooms is an exceptionally pleasant activity but still need to be done while in the company of competent mushroom pickers. Experienced mushroom pickers know that Laetiporus sulphureus can be found in broadleaf and mixed forests above all. Sometimes they are encountered in coniferous forests also. The species thrives on living, as well as dead, broadleaf trees.
The greatest abundance can be found throughout the spring months. It is also possible to see a chicken of the woods during the fall. Normally, they are seen in large quantities. Often, they stick to a single tree for several years. When picking Laetiporus sulphureus, you need to look at the age of the mushroom, since older specimens are not fit for consumption.
In them, the flesh is tough and hard to the touch, while the cap has a pale color. It is said that it is difficult to confuse Laetiporus sulphureus with another species but care should be taken nonetheless.
When it comes to storing chicken of the woods, it surpasses a great part of the other species. As a rule, mushroom should not be stored for too long without being processed in a special way because they quickly lose their freshness. However, chicken of the woods can endure even if not kept in the fridge for more than a day.
Cooking Chicken of the Woods
Chicken of the woods finds wide application in the kitchen. As already mentioned, the young fruit bodies of Laetiporus sulphureus are used in cooking. Some even dare eating older mushrooms, where the meat has not yet hardened that much. The flesh of young mushrooms is juicy, with a slight sour aftertaste and a delightful aroma.
In vegetarian cuisine, it is used as a substitute for chicken meat. When prepared with the right spices, it so closely resembles the animal product that one would be hard-pressed to notice the difference. This very quality is indeed the reason why it is called the "chicken of the words" in some countries.
Chicken of the woods is suitable for frying, marinating, boiling, breading. A plethora of specialties can be made from it, the flesh usually being seasoned with spices such as rosemary, thyme, black pepper and saffron.
Let us offer you a recipe for a salad with chicken of the woods, both fresh and dietetic.
Preparation: Clean and wash the young fruit bodies of the chicken of the woods. Chop them into course pieces and boil them in salted water for about an hour. Them rinse them with cold water and leave them to drain. In the meantime, dice the potatoes, chop the green onions and dill. Combine all of the chopped ingredients in a large bowl and add the strained yoghurt and spices. Toss the salad and serve. Optionally, garnish it with black olives.
Benefits of Chicken of the Woods
There exist many benefits from the chicken of the woods. It is proven that it is a source of fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin D and vitamin K. Chicken of the woods is valued by modern medicine since it is needed in the production of certain types of drugs. It contains numerous beneficial substances that have a positive effect on liver and biliary tract problems.
These same also provide a benign benefit in problems with the organs of the respiratory system. Sometimes, chicken of the woods is used as a treatment against tuberculosis. According to some experts, consuming this type of mushroom helps for quicker weight loss. 2 cups of this mushroom contain only 30 calories.
Dangers of Chicken of the Woods
Chicken of the woods cause harm primarily to the tree which they grow on. They cause harm even to living trees. Despite this, scientists do not agree whether it is a parasite or not.
As far as human health, chicken of the woods can be dangerous if the consumer is allergic to it. If the given person has never tried this type of mushroom before, they need to eat only a small part of it the 1st time they try it. Digestive problems, hallucinations, nausea and others are seen in allergic reactions to it.