Often when people find out I’m a vegan they ask me if I miss meat. Truth is, I don’t miss meat at all. Which is weird, because I used to be a major meat lover. Once I saw and understood what happens to the animals being raised and killed for our menus, the thought of eating them became abhorrent to me. However, I sure do enjoy meat alternatives from time to time and every once in a while nature provides such a treat.
This is Laetiporus gilbertsonii, also known as Chicken of the Woods. I found this mushroom the other day while talking a stroll through the neighborhood.
Here in Oregon, this mushroom starts growing in August and continues on through the fall. This specimen was very fresh and soft, which I could tell because when I cut it off the tree it was growing on, water beaded up and dripped out.
(The darker yellow spots are where water dripped down and out of the mushroom.)
Don’t feel bad for the mushroom…most people don’t realize that the part of the mushroom that we see is the fruiting body of the mushroom mycelium, which lives underground. It isn’t unlike picking an apple from an apple tree. The job of the fruiting part of the mushroom is to spread the spores far and wide, which we help with when we pick them and take them home.
I cut the outside off the mushroom once I got it home, because the area near the stem is tough and harder to chew through.
While it is very difficult to misidentify Laetiporus and there are no poisonous look-alikes, a word of warning here: some mushrooms cause allergic reactions when they are consumed. This is not considered a mushroom poisoning, it is called an “idiosyncratic reaction.” Chicken of the Woods is one type of mushroom that can cause this reaction. A recent study reported that around one in ten people may experience gastrointestinal distress after eating this mushroom.
More Foraging Fun: Making Your Own Wild Root Brew
Photo: Susana Romatz