"Chicken of the woods"?

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Thu Jun 20 04:07:42 EST 2002

"Colin Davidson" <cabd2 at biotech.cam.ac.uk> wrote in message news:<aen047$25a$1 at pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>...
> "Bill Walker" <bhw at wam.umd.edu> wrote in message
> news:pgpmoose.200206180936.26169 at net.bio.net...
> > I was trying to identify a large mushroom growth I found at the base of
> > an oak tree.
> > The best I can guess after looking through many books and websites, is
> > that it is Laetiporus sulphureus, or Polyporus sulphureus: "chicken of
> > the woods".
> >
> > Whatchy'all think?
> >
> > (sorry about the poor scan - I wanted to protect the scanner platen
> > glass from the dirt and stuff)
> >
> > http://www.wam.umd.edu/~bhw/Mushroom1.jpg
> > http://www.wam.umd.edu/~bhw/Mushroom2.jpg
> Looks very like it. Do the smell and the taste match the identification?
> > How best to store it?  Fridge?  Sliced and dried?
> Fridge it for now. Your specimen looks, in my opinion, to be a little old
> for drying. When you dry older chicken of the woods, even in thin strips, it
> tends to rehydrate poorly. The result can be papery, even woody.
> Longer termstorage (more than a day or two) can best be achieved by dicing
> it up, cooking it, and freezing it. I personally find that sauteeing with
> some onion and adding just a little vegetable stock works quite well. I tend
> to defrost a half pound bag when I'm making a chicken stew or curry, and
> when cooked it's awfully ahrd to distinguish the meaty bits from the
> mushroomy bits. The flavour works really well when used this way.
> I've experimented with pickling this mushroom, by cooking in vinegar and
> water (50/50) for 15 minutes with peppercorns and some spices, followed by
> pouring over with olive oil and sealing tightly. The result is tasty enough,
> but I haven't quite figured out a really good way to use it yet.
> > How would one go about propagating such a mushroom?  Comprimise the bark
> > of the appropriate species tree and stuff some mushroom into it?
> Looking in Paul Stamets book "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms" I see
> that he reccomends inoculating hardwood logs, presumably by using plugs of
> fresh material, which would make sense as this species seems to grow most
> often on stumps. My own experience of picking this species indicate that it
> fruits most heavily on willow, so if you have such wood avilable then that
> might work well.
> > Also:
> >
> > I had collected a bunch of other mushrooms for identification, and
> > noticed that there were a bunch of tiny white worms emerging from what I
> > tentatively identified as Marasmius oreades, the "fairy ring mushroom".
> > (Of course, it could be damn near anything else for I know.  They were
> > brown/yellow, gave a brown spore print, grew in a ring in the grass near
> > some small planted trees, and had gills broadly attached to the stipe -
> > the kind of gills where not all of them are attached to the stipe.
> >
> > I'll try to get a scan of the ones I dried out at 37 deg C. )
> >
> > Anyway, how do most people 'debug' their mushrooms, either for sample
> > preservation or as preparation for eating?
> Hehe. Marasmius oreades, if it is that mushroom, is one of my favourites for
> eating. It also dries marvellously. When dealing with a great big mushroom
> like, say, a penny bun or an agaricus, I might be tempted to cut off any
> parts too heavily 'wormy', but when picking the fairy ring champignon (not a
> big beasty) of which you speak I normally move on to another ring until I
> find some that aren't infested. Here in the U.K. it's so common that if you
> find any M. oreades you'll find lots. Some people don't sorry about the
> worms and just dry and powder the whole thing, but I don't have the stomach
> for that.
> You're best picking this mushroom shortly after rain, when the growth is
> fresh and there hasn't been long for the maggots to make their mark.
> Be -especially- careful with M. oreades until you get the feel for what
> you're doing, and even then be cautions. It's not impossible that you could
> mis-identify one of the Clitocybe species for it, and your mistake could be
> fatal.
> > Thanks for helping a fledgling mycologist/mycophile/mycophage :)
> You're welcome! I hope I've been of some small help.
I agree with most of what Colin said. The pics seem to be of an older
Laetiporus sulphureus (Chicken of the woods).

I wouldn't try cultivating it as Paul Stamets alledges. This fungus
appears to be specific to heartwood. If you don't have older trees (in
my area), it is very unlikely to find heardwood, whether the tree is a
conifer or hardwood.

I have observed large fruitings of Laetiporus on hawthorne, beech, Red
alder, Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir (perhaps some
other species as well, although I don't recall them now). I attempted
to grow this fungus using spawn obtained from Paul Stamets,
inoculating about 150 5-foot tall Douglas-fir (Psendotsuga menziesii)
stumps after first cutting the tops of the trees, and then girdling
the base. At this time (some 5 years later) not a single stump has
produced Laetiporus. Several other fungi have produced, including
Witch's Butter and at least one Naematoloma species. However, those
species were not intentionally introduced.

The Naematoloma species may have some small culinary value, provided
you are absolutely sure of your identification. Since I am not
confident with that genus, I would find it _extremely_ difficult to
justify selling it.

Most of the conifer trees I have seen this fungus growing on were, by
any account, mid- to old-growth. I would estimate the average diameter
of the stumps, logs or snags to be at least 2.5 feet in diameter. And
even then, the fruitings were rather small.

The one exception to that was a small-diameter black hawthorne, which
was badly damaged by rhyme ice several years back (1990, I believe).
One half of the tree fell, and was mostly cut off by the owner. The
next year, as the tree was dying, a large fruiting (perhaps 3 pounds?)
was observed on this nearly dead tree of only 6-7 inches diameter (but
probably 30+ years old).

Daniel B. Wheeler

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