It is often substituted for chicken in vegetarian diets and can be prepared similarly to poultry. Some can have a mild reaction when ingested so try in small amounts before adopting the Chicken of the Wood diet. It is recommended that only the freshest Chicken of the Wood be consumed and that it is cooked before eaten.
An easily recognizable fungus, it grows in large clusters and is bright orange on top and fades to yellow along the edges and underside. You can also identify this mushroom by the fact that it does not have “gills” on its bright yellow underside and instead is covered with tiny pores. Chicken of the Wood species are not only found in North America, they are found worldwide. Fungi from Japan, Hawaii, South America, Europe, and South Africa all belong to the Laetiporus genus.
While mushroom hunters appreciate the fungus’ resilience and tendency to return year after year, those who prefer their trees whole would prefer that the fungus stop reproducing. The fungus causes heart rot in living trees which weakens them making them brittle and easily blown down. But as with most fungi this is part of its natural role in the ecosystem breaking down and decomposing raw materials to be reabsorbed in the soil.
Oddly enough, based on their DNA fungi are considered to be more animal than plant. Perhaps this explains why Chicken of the Wood tastes more like chicken than mushroom. Furthermore, mushrooms are an extremely good source of protein, another characteristic they share with their meaty counterpart – chicken.
Fortunately for everyone Chicken of the Wood is not endangered in the least and is extremely widespread.