The ‘Chicken of the Woods’ is an amazing mushroom also known by mycologists (mushroom lovers) as a sulphur polypore (Laetiporus sulphureus).
Chicken of the Woods is a safe and easily recognized edible mushroom with a soft texture and no gills. It grows on Yew, Oak, Sweet Chestnut and Willow tree trunks throughout the summer.
It is easy to recognize because it is so bright yellow in colour. Older specimens of the fungus get lighter in colour as they get more woody and less flavorsome, so just go for bright young examples.
Sulphur Polypores can grow big, and I mean really big. I have harvested five kg off a single tree. I understand that individual specimens of chicken of the woods can reach a weight of more than 20kg.
Cooking with Free Food
Add bite size chunks of the chicken of the woods to pork or chicken casseroles for the last 20 minutes of cooking to add a wonderful extra depth and taste to the meal.
Alternatively the sulphur polypore makes a great ingredient in a creamy curry. However the best recipie for chicken of the woods I have ever tasted was a golden risotto cooked by my friend Geoff last summer.
He took a chicken risotto recipe and replaced half the chicken with chicken of the woods. It was delicious!
I haven’t seen chicken of the woods available in those easy grow mushroom kits yet, so you cannot grow your own chicken of the woods mushrooms. Just get out there and go looking about a meter up the trunk of an Oak tree and you may find one.
If you do find a chicken of the woods then do not simply rip it off the tree. This will stop it growing again in future. However if you cut off a chunk close to the tree new mushroom growth will resume next season.
Chicken of the woods does not keep well as a dried mushroom. The best way to preserve it is to fry small pieces of Laetiporus sulphureus in butterand then freeze them for up to three months.