When walking in the woods, if you stumble upon a large yellow or orange shelved mushroom growing on a tree, it is quite possible you have found a species of Laetiporus, colloquially known as chicken of the woods, among other name variations. If cooked correctly, it does in fact taste like chicken.
Laetiporus is a genus of edible bracket fungus, or a mushroom that grows on trees, that can be found around the world, including North America. The fungus causes brown rot, a type of wood decay, in its host tree, thus threatening the tree’s health.
Despite its parasitic nature, mushroom connoisseurs rave about Laetiporus because of its chicken-like flavor, making it a unique vegetarian alternative. The fruiting bodies, basically the mushroom’s shelves, are the edible part, which are rendered tasty only when cooked. The sources reviewed for this CSI claim that smaller, younger mushrooms have the best taste.
But the curious should be warned: a small percentage of people have mild allergic reactions to Laetiporus. If it’s your first chicken of the woods experience, start with small portions to see how your body reacts.
If you are not a seasoned mushroom hunter, we advise you consult a field guide before sampling what you think might be chicken of the woods…just in case.