Foraging for food is becoming the next big thing with folks looking to get away from the grocery store. One things folks can try there hand at is edible mushrooms. (Please do your research, carry a field guide, and ask if your not sure!) We LOVE hunting morels in the the spring time. There is nothing like wandering in the woods and the delight of finding those yummy little gems. In fact this year the oldest country kid found his first one ever!
Recently I walked out, maybe 10 feet from our back door, and was SHOCKED to find a mushroom growing that I had never seen before. It was bright orange and very large. My first thought was “I wonder if we can eat that?” I’m a little strange, I know, but you would not believe the things we have foraged just in our own backyard, mere steps from the house! After calling the family together to gawk in awe of this find, we set to work identifying the mushroom, which turned out to be a Chicken of the Woods.
How do I know we IDed this thing properly? Because there is nothing else that looks like it! With that knowledge in hand, we scampered to the kitchen to figure out how to eat that bad boy. My hubby sliced the mushroom into strips and sauteed it with a little butter and DANG!!!! It tasted like chicken! I kid you not!! If you deep friend that bad boy in batter and told your kids they were eating chicken tenders, they would have no clue it was a mushroom!!
Your curious about them now, aren’t you? You want some for yourself don’t you? Well here is the low down on Chicken of the Woods……..
Chicken of the woods are mostly found from August through October, though we found ours in July. Chicken of the Woods are VERY noticeable from long distance because of it’s size and very bright colors. These aren’t like morels where you have to keep an eye on the ground. Just gaze off into the forest and they jump out at you!
Chicken of the Woods grows on many types of dead or mature hardwood trees. While they will grow on conifers, everything I have read says to avoid them as they don’t taste good.. These mushrooms grow very fast so don’t be surprised if it wasn’t there the day before! And when you do find them, there is usually a lot. What are you going to do with so much? Dance a happy dance because this mushroom is perfect for freezing!
When you go to freeze your bounty, simply cut the mushroom up into smaller slices or pieces and set them on a cookie sheet in your freezer. Make sure you avoid pointy edges on your pieces so they don’t rip your zip lock bag later. No one likes freezer burned food. Once your pieces are frozen on your cookie sheet, simply bag them up and put them back in the freezer. This method of preserving works wonderful and it is so easy to do. We recently thawed some to make a soup and its texture and taste held up wonderfully.
So how do you cook Chicken of the Woods? Well first off, you want younger mushrooms as they are more tender. If you find an older one, just use the edges. Make sure you clean your mushrooms but don’t soak them as they will absorb like crazy. Once you have them cleaned and cut up, Chicken of the Woods can be sauteed, fried or baked. They can be used as a substitute for chicken in a recipe. They are wonderful in soups as well. My hubby made a curry lentil soup with these that was so good the littlest country kid was licking the bowl! This mushroom is so versatile! Keep in mind, that unless you are frying them (and they are so good deep fried), go easy on the oil as they like to absorb.
I hope by now you are intrigued, possibly drooling, or maybe you are already grabbing your keys and heading to your car, shouting for your family to hurry up so you can head to the woods to find some. I promise you, this mushroom is an amazing culinary experience! And to think, it was right out my back door!
*** NOTE *** While there are no look-a-likes of this mushroom, as with anything, some folks are sensitivity…..just try a small amount at first, wait a few, then chow down!
**Homestead Tips on Tuesday is a weekly series where we help you learn skills, tips, and trick to help you on your journey of homesteading. Many places post list of things you should/could do as far as homesteading skill, but I feel lists are at times overwhelming and can make people give up before they even start. So every Tuesday I share one thing for you to try or consider. I hope you join us every Tuesday and I would love to hear about your adventures with each weeks topic.**