Chicken of the woods is a large mushroom that is often found on decaying trees and logs. This mushroom is a tasty treat and may have numerous health benefits.
What Is Chicken of the Woods?
Chicken of the woods (scientific name Laetiporus sulphureus) is a type of fungus that grows on and inside trees.
When young, the fungus grows inside the tree and causes rot as it breaks down the wood for nutrients. As the fungus ages, it starts fruiting, or producing mushrooms, on the outside bark of the tree. Chicken of the woods is an important part of the ecosystem, as it breaks down old and dying trees and returns their nutrients back into the soil.
What does chicken of the woods look like? You can easily spot chicken of the woods mushrooms by their bright color and distinct shape. Young mushrooms are typically a radiant orange or yellow and look almost like shelves stuck to the side of the tree. Young mushrooms are also soft to the touch, with an almost suedelike texture.
Older mushrooms typically lose some of their bright colors and become a lighter yellow or tan before eventually turning white. Older mushrooms also tend to be more brittle than younger chicken of the woods.
Where is chicken of the woods found? Chicken of the woods mushrooms are mainly found in Europe and North America, although there are several similar species found in East Asia. They’re typically found on hardwood trees, like oaks, cherry trees, and conifers.
Are Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms Safe to Eat?
Chicken of the woods mushrooms, specifically the species L. sulphureus, are safe to eat and a delicious addition to your diet.
Chicken of the woods side effects. Although chicken of the woods is safe to eat when cooked, the raw mushroom may cause gastrointestinal issues. Additionally, the mushroom may cause an allergic reaction in some people.
There are several mushroom species that look similar to chicken of the woods but are slightly toxic. These other species are typically found on conifer trees in the Northeastern U.S. and eucalyptus trees in western North America. Consuming these look-alikes may cause vomiting and mild hallucinations.
When foraging, be sure that you’ve identified the right mushroom before eating it. If you’re unsure whether or not you picked up a chicken of the woods, double-check with an expert or throw it away.
Chicken of the Woods Health Benefits
Chicken of the woods mushrooms may have numerous health benefits. These mushrooms are low-calorie and low-fat but also contain health promoting compounds like antioxidants and helpful polysaccharides.
Although more work has to be done, some studies have shown that compounds found in chicken of the woods may have far-reaching health benefits.
Chicken of the woods may help fight tumors. The polysaccharides, or long sugar chains, found in chicken of the woods may help the body fight tumors. Mushroom polysaccharides seem to encourage the immune system to act against tumors. They may also directly suppress tumors by causing tumor cell death.
Chicken of the woods may reduce inflammation. One study in mice found that eburicoric acid found in chicken of the woods mushrooms may help reduce inflammation. The acid was given to mice who had stomach ulcers and seemed to limit the spread of ulcers and protected the stomach lining.
Chicken of the woods contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent damage from chemicals called free radicals that can build up in your body over time. Chicken of the woods mushrooms contain at least two kinds of antioxidants, called phenols and flavonoids, that are known to act against these free radicals.
How to Eat Chicken of the Woods
Chicken of the woods taste. As suggested by its name, chicken of the woods has a pleasant flavor that's similar to chicken. It also has a fleshy texture that holds up well when cooked.
A serving of chicken of the woods mushrooms typically contains about:
- 10% protein
- 75% carbohydrates
- 3% fat
- 140 calories
Chicken of the woods also contains antioxidants like flavonoids and phenols.
How to cook chicken of the woods. Chicken of the woods may cause stomach issues if you eat it raw, so be sure to cook it thoroughly before eating. You can cook it the same as would other mushrooms, like by sauteing, blanching, baking, or frying it.
How to eat chicken of the woods. Chicken of the woods can be incorporated into your favorite mushroom recipes. Try it in a mushroom risotto, throw it into a green bean casserole, or saute it with some butter and garlic as a side dish.
Chicken of the woods has a fleshy texture and an almost chickenlike flavor that makes it a great meat substitute. Fry it for a “chicken” sandwich, slice it into nuggets, or bake it and serve with sides.