Chicken of the Woods (Polyporus sulphureus complex) includes several species – the one featured here is Laetiporus conifericola.
These brightly colored mushrooms are some of the easiest to identify, and grows in prodigious clusters, sometimes weighing in at more than 100 lbs.
In the Pacific Northwest of North America, the most common Chicken of the Woods, also known as the Sulphur Polypore (Laetiporus conifericola), is a brown rot mushroom that grows on conifers, primarily hemlocks and Douglas firs, although we recently found some growing on a very decomposed cedar. Another clade of these species – Laetiporus sulphureus and Laetiporus cinnatus, grows on hardwoods. Typically growing in early summer to early fall, these species can reoccur for a few years. Some mycologists describe this species as a weak parasite, which then grows saprophytically after the tree dies.
These species are so efficient at decomposition, they can eat a standing tree or log in a few years, colonizing the heartwood, leaving only brown, cubic like blocks of lignin, as its cellulase enzymes digest the cellulose.
I love surprising my friends with this mushroom who can’t believe its flavor. This mushroom tastes like chicken!
Here, I show you a simple way of preparation. It is important that they are well cooked. I prefer the barbecue, cutting them into strips and to singe the edges until they are crispy. Great finger-foods, these can be frozen, post cooking, and then re-heated. This is one of the few mushrooms that can be harvested in large quantities. And its bright sulphur color makes it easy to see from afar.
Be forewarned that Chicken of the Woods can rot quickly and if eager mycophiles do not cut away the blemishing regions, they can cause GI (gastrointestinal) discordance, i.e. a stomachache. So please be careful – and note that the edges are the most delicious.
Curiously, I have found huge swarms of mosquitos buzzing around rotting L. conifericola. See my YT channel. And for more information, see Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World for more information.
Filmed by Pamela Kryskow, MD