Chicken of the woods mushrooms are abundant in fall in BC forests. I stumbled upon a huge fruiting of them yesterday and it is one of the most beautiful, otherworldly sights to encounter.
The Chicken of the Woods mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) is bright orange and really easy to identify for beginners. They are edible! Ohpa! However, some people can have allergic reactions to them, so do a small fry test (explained below) if you are going to eat the mushroom for the first time. It also matters what kind of tree they grow on, people tend to avoid the ones growing on eucalyptus or some conifers. I find as long as they aren’t growing on cedar, I have no problem with eating them.
Where do I look?
- On logs, trunks or stumps of conifers or hardwood trees, very common.
When do I look?
- Spring (I found the ones in the picture in May around Vancouver), summer or fall.
- Growing shelflike each shelf up to 20 cm across
- Bright orange topped and yellowish on bottom
- No stalk
- Juicy when young fading to brittle, whittish when old
- Yellow flesh, white spore print
Know these look-alikes…
- Pycnoporus cinnabarinus – inedible (not poisonous)
- Hapalopilus nidulans – inedible (not poisonous)
Omphalotus olearius – Jack o lantern mushrooms (not found in BC) – poisonous
How to cook them?
- Cook these really well, they pick up sauces/oils like sponges and taste a bit like chicken, some specimens can be bitter tasting if they are old. Never eat them raw.
- Small fry test – It’s a good idea to do an allergy test with a small piece of any wild mushroom even after you’ve positively identified the species. Cook a dime sized piece of the mushroom thoroughly, eat it, wait a few days and then make sure you don’t get stomach upsets. Many people are allergic to specific types of mushrooms.
- Harvest the outer rim of the young mushroom to avoid bitterness.
Please use caution when hunting for edible mushrooms. This is just a rough guide which is no substitute for going out with an experienced wildcrafter. Most mushrooms aren’t deadly poisonous, but it’s no fun getting sick and not worth the risk! Come with us on a mushroom tour to start you off on the right foot.