C H I C K E N of the W O O D S (Laetiporus sulphureus)
How to Identify Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
Chicken of the woods, sulphur polypore, giant canary fan
Meaning of Botanical Name
Latiporus is derived from the Latin words Laet, meaning bright or pleasing and Por meaning pores. Sulphureus relates to the bright sulphur colour. Translating to bright and pleasing pores of a sulphur colour.
People react to this fungi differently, it’s said that 1in10 people have adverse reactions to this fungus, usually just an upset stomach, but if vast amounts are eaten by this minority it can develop to vomiting and hallucinations have been recorded in the past. If you’re happy eating mushrooms normally you should be fine but it’s worth trying a little to start with before moving on to eating large amounts of this.
Could be confused with
Dyers maze gill (Phalous Schweinitzii), which surface is a lot more rough, chicken of the woods has a velvet surface and typically grows higher up on oak trees.
Giant Polypore (Meripilus Giganteus), this fungus is typically found at the base of trees whereas chicken of the woods is found higher up trees, giant polypore also discolours black on contact which chicken of the woods doesn’t.
Food Plant of….
a range of insects can be found hiding in the folds of this fungi, as well as spiders that eat these insects, deer are also recorded to eat this fungi as and when it grows low enough for them to collect.
Range and Distribution
Found all over Europe, UK, northern America and Northern Asia, although variations of this fungi can be found throughout the globe.
Nearly always found growing in association with hard wood, specifically oak, although it also grows on cherry, beech and other hardwoods.
Chicken of the woods typically grows on decaying trees (although the signs of decay aren’t always evident) and can be found growing quite high up the tree. It grows off the wood like a shelf.
The bright orange fruit body becomes paler towards its edges, up to 40cm+ across and is irregularly semi-circular, it comprises of a number of thick overlapping brackets sprouting from one joined spot, it’s rather shaggy and velvety.
The underside is yellow with circular or oval pores.
On breaking this fungi it appear to have the texture and consistency and look of chicken, when young it will ooze liquid on squeezing and when old it will crumble.
Young: Pies, Fried with bacon, as a substitute to chicken, to make vegan roast dinner, bbq’d roasted, stuffed
Old: dried and powdered for flavourings and stocks, in a pate
This fungi is a natural antibiotic and a weak disinfectant, as a whole it’s good at regulating health within the human body, improving and defending our bodies against illness. This may be down to Eburicoic acid produced by the sporophore which may be used to synthesize the steroids that play an important role in human health.
it’s noted that old dry specimens of this fungi can be burnt to drive off mosquitos, I tried this on a fire in our woods and it produced a lot of smoke but seemed to work.
Parts for Dyeing
a light yellow dye can be extracted from this fungus, with no mordant needed, this yellow lakes well on chalk in to a dried pigment.
Suitability for Paper Making
I always had the idea that this fungi would make a good paper, but surprisingly it makes an incredibly weak paper. So you can make paper with it, but don’t expect it to last very long or have many applications.
Tips and Observations
When this fungi grows high up in the trees I find it easiest to knock it off by holding a large stick and prodding around the fungi’s base until it drop and smashes in a great ploom of chicken of the woods.
If you have this fungi in vast amounts and don’t manage to eat it all or give enough away before it dries out, do not fret, you can also powder the dried mushroom and use it along with flour in baking bread, it can also be used with salt and pepper as a seasoning.