Deep in the thick north woods, I find myself surrounded by a beauty that nature gracefully surrenders day in and day out. Simply making my way to work unveils hundreds of signs of thriving life, that any wanderer would be pleased to come across. Wild turkeys mindlessly waddling around an open field as a doe and her fawn cautiously cross a paved road ahead of me. Only when I step out of the car and cross the tree line for a closer look, do I find the true beauty in a wooded wonderland.
Bright orange and neon yellow, standing out against the forest background as large pads of edible fungus decorate dead and/or decaying oak trees. The Laetiporus Sulphureus, Or more commonly known as “Chicken of the Woods” becomes an instant sign of a delicious meal for any forager. I specify oak trees, simply because that is where I find them, other hardwood trees are capable of producing the mushrooms as well. This edible vegetarian delicacy is everything from a parasite ( giving a form of heart rot to it’s host) to a key element in a savory dish fit for any gourmand. Hearty and filling, the simple shroom is an easy Vegetarian supplement to any Salad, Soup, Pasta or any veggie delight for that matter.
I harvest a Beautiful Clump of fungus with every intention of creating something beautiful. With such an ambition, I had to be careful in choosing the perfect specimen. There is a brief window in which the Chicken of the Woods is absolutely perfect in every aspect of the word. If you harvest the Shroom before it is ready then it is immature and never reaches its full potential. If you harvest to late, then you are facing an over grown, worm infested brick that tastes like wood. When the Mushroom is perfect, the color is beautifully bright orange, soft and plump to the touch. Once you trim the petals from the base, the mushroom begins to bleed (the fresh wound immediately begins to excrete a yellow fluid).
As far as preparation:
Clean the mushroom with a soft bristle brush, taking care to rid the mushroom of any dirt, grass, or any other foreign elements. Then, slice the petals into manageable pieces, in doing so also be sure to check the interior for any unwanted tenants, like worms. The cooking is as simple as Sautéing the pieces in butter and seasoning with salt and pepper… The Chicken of the Woods will do the rest.
Please keep in mind that many of the mushrooms found in a wooded area are not meant for consumption and can cause harm to a person. Please be cautious and smart, and educate yourself before eating any mushrooms that you have personally collected. If even, after research, you believe a mushroom to be harmless, still start by eating the specimen in small quantities until you know how your body will react to the fungus. Do not let this warning steer you away from discovering new luxuries, just be aware.
Let the Chicken of the Woods be a testimonial as to how great the prize of foraging can possibly be.