The chickens are out again – and all over the woods! Look for them on dead and dying trees and stumps. “Chickens?” you ask. Not the avian variety, Chicken of the Woods is a fungus, one of the few that cannot be confused with poisonous species. They are delicious sautéed in a little butter or olive oil, so they are perfect for beginner mycophiles who want to sample this wild treat. Laetoporus sulphurus, also called Sulphur Shelf, Chicken Mushroom, or Chicken Fungus, is an edible bracken polypore – “bracken” because its fruiting body protrudes from the surface of whatever wood it is decomposing and “polypore” because instead of gills on its undersurface it has tiny pores.
Although this is a mild fungus that almost anyone can tolerate – and many of us relish – people with sensitivities to foods should exercise caution. Start with a small amount, and be sure to cook this late summer delicacy.