We find our chicken mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) more often in the fall, but they can be found starting in the spring, though the summer, and into autumn. Our orange and yellow chicken mushroom can be a large specimen, providing huge amounts of food when the fungus is still young and tender. When the shelves are cut, they should ooze a little liquid and be juicy. Old, crumbly and bleached and faded chicken mushroom will taste like sawdust, and no amount of cooking or boiling will remedy that.
To use the flesh, we slice or cube the shelves and meaty core into manageable pieces, and use it just like chicken. It will retain it's beautiful orange and white color, and will crisp up nicely when sauteed. We have made pot pie, skewered satay, soup, "fried chicken", stuffed bread, and a pulled meat style barbecue sandwich with this versatile fungus, along with just frying it up in a pan and eating it with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice.
|Gillian holding a pink and white chicken, cut|
from the base of an oak tree
Chicken mushrooms are polypores, which means they have small holes, or pores, on their underside instead of gills. They rot the heart wood of hardwood trees here in the Northeast, growing on the upper portions of the tree trunk. A similar chicken, the pink and white Laetiporus cincinnatus, rots the roots and butt of the tree, and therefore appears at the base of a tree. We actually enjoy the taste of the pink and white chicken slightly more than the orange and yellow chicken, but both are very good edibles.
Fruiting Body: Up to 60 cm across; usually consisting of several to many individual caps arranged in a shelving formation or a rosette.
Caps: 5-30 cm across and up to 20 cm deep; up to 3 cm thick; fan-shaped to semicircular or irregular; more or less planoconvex; smooth to finely wrinkled; suedelike; bright yellow to bright orange when young, frequently fading in maturity and with direct sunlight.
Pore Surface: Yellow; with 2-4 circular to angular pores per mm; tubes to 5 mm deep.
Flesh: Thick; soft and watery when young, becoming tough, eventually crumbling away; white to pale yellow.
Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
Spore Print: White.