While rambling along a country road recently, a flash of bright orange emanating from the dark forest floor caught my eye. The source of the vibrant color turned out to be a chicken of the woods …
While rambling along a country road recently, a flash of bright orange emanating from the dark forest floor caught my eye. The source of the vibrant color turned out to be a chicken of the woods mushroom (COW)—a favorite find for mushroom foragers anticipating a feast.
I’m a big fan of fungi and the almost magical world they inhabit and co-create. From the fairyland-like habitats in which they thrive, to the health-supporting properties provided by some species, mushrooms enhance our lives in multiple ways.
In the past, I’ve hunted fungi for their photogenic aspects, mostly in appreciation of their visually fascinating forms, colors and textures, sharing the images in this column and via my social media series, WonderWatch (www.instagram.com/heronseye).
Last year, after proper identification of the species, I harvested and prepared a small but intensely delicious amount of black trumpet mushrooms, thereby igniting my interest in the culinary delights to be had.
Aware of the potential harms (including death) that can come from consuming certain species, I snapped some photos of the bowl-shaped orange mushroom I chanced upon recently and consulted one of my favorite local mushroom experts—Jack Barnett—for identification confirmation and preparation tips for cooking and storage.
Barnett’s enthusiastic and informative response came back promptly. “If the underside is white, the species is Laetiporus cincinnatus, or if yellow, Laetiporus sulphureus,” he wrote. “Don’t let it go to waste! Mushrooms are the fruiting body of the fungus, so the organism is not hurt when the mushroom is removed.”
He advised harvesting with a butter knife to assure the specimen was not too old and therefore tough, then sautéing in butter or oil as the mushroom takes on the flavor of any sauce it is cooked in, much like chicken. Par-boil, ice bath, then freeze any extra for future consumption.
Both of these species can be found in the Upper Delaware River region at this time of year. Happy foraging!