CHICKEN OF THE WOODS, SULFUR SHELF

Laetiporus sulfuraeus

Laetiporus sulphureus may not be the tastiest fungus around (a bit bland, like supermarket chicken breast), but it is one of the prettiest, and it is easy to spot and unmistakable:  There are no other big bright yellow bracket fungi about, so if that’s what you see, Laetiporus sulfureus, Sulfur Shelf/Chicken of the Woods is what you have found.

If the mushroom is very young, it is soft and juicy and slightly tangy.  As it ages, its texture becomes quite similar to poultry meat, though occasionally a little bitter, and once it’s fully mature, it becomes tough and dry and inedible.

I find it on dead logs and sometimes still living trees from early to late summer.  After I clean it from tree remnants and insects, I like to cut it into portions and, unless it's very young, cook it in stock before using it like I would chicken breast.  With its meaty, dry texture and neutral flavour, this is a versatile cooking ingredient, an excellent meat substitute, and the perfect mushroom to feed to people who claim not to like mushrooms.   Last year, it took my children three weeks before they realised the chicken meat they had been eating was actually chicken of the woods.  One consideration before converting to a chicken of the woods based diet: A fairly large percentage of the population (possibly up to ten percent) develops an intolerance to this fungus, so be sure to cook it well and try eating a small amount initially.

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