Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Photo Collage - Chicken Mushroom

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.

From MushroomExpert.com:
Ecology: Parasitic and saprobic on living and dead oaks (also sometimes on the wood of other hardwoods); causing a reddish brown cubical heart rot, with thin areas of white mycelium visible in the cracks of the wood; annual; growing alone or, more typically, in large clusters; summer and fall, rarely in winter and spring; east of the Rocky Mountains. The mushrooms do not appear until well after the fungus has attacked the tree; by the time the chickens appear, they are definitely coming home to roost, as far as the tree's health is concerned.
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.
Stem: Absent.
Flesh: Thick; soft and watery when young, becoming tough, eventually crumbling away; white to pale yellow.
Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
Spore Print: White.

Spring Chicken Mushroom

As the spring season progresses, we are finding ourselves very busy and out in the woods and fields almost every day. Between jobs, our daughter, her school functions, and other obligations, we try to head out to find our favorite wild foods when we find some time. While May and June are not the best times for mushroom hunting, sometimes we find ourselves a lucky spring chicken (Laetiporus sulphureus), or sulfur shelf mushroom growing from dead wood. While out on our desperate hunt for Connecticut morels, Robert came across a small yellow blob on a dead tree. Really small, only about an inch across, but he still recognized it as an immature chicken mushroom.

Three days later, we went back out to check the progress of the mushroom. Rain does not have too much to do with the progression of this polypore, since it is growing from wood and not the ground. It has been very dry this month, so there is not much else in the way of fungi to be found in the forest. The original small blob had erupted into a colony of soft and wet growing parts, about the length of our arm, along with other growths along the dead tree. There were no shelves yet, so we left it to grow some more.

After seven days total, we went back today to find a beautiful, big chicken. The humidity brought out some small bugs, but they flew away with a burst of breath. The knife cut through the tender flesh of the mushroom easily, and we grabbed about 15 pounds of fresh "meat" from several clusters of shelves. There is not much to clean, just a few small twig inclusions and a bug or two, and now we have several meals planned this week.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Connecticut Morels

We have only been searching for mushrooms for about 3 years now, but had never found morels in Connecticut. Until this weekend, that is. Connecticut does not get the large amounts that you can find in the mid-west, and we don't have forest fires very often, so we don't have burn morels like the west coast. Our season is short and erratic. It had been very dry- no rain for 16 days- this spring, so we figured it was another season we would not be able to find morels. We camped out with a group of mushroom hunting pals this weekend, and we made a group exploration effort that yielded 27 morels and a pile of young dryad's saddle (Polyporus squamosus).

Andrew may be in love!
Camping with mushroom hunters, wild food foragers, and fishermen and fisherwomen definitely had advantages. Dinner back at camp that evening included fried dryad's saddle and morels in butter and oil, fire roasted ramps naan bread, morel kasha and pasta salad, fresh caught rainbow and brook trout stuffed with sheep's sorrel and ramps, maitake chili, chaga tea, and some dandelion wine purchased at the dandelion festival in Ohio. We sampled, we chatted, we drank around the fire telling fish stories and mushroom hunting tales. I wish we had photos of the food, but it was dark and we had to eat in the covered tent because it was raining a bit. Looking forward to a fruitful mushrooming, foraging and feasting year with friends!

Dryad's saddle, we ate the smaller, more tender specimens
Can you spot the morels in this picture?