chickened out

Yesterday, Don and I spent much of the afternoon wandering in search of late summer flora and fauna. One of our stops along the hike was to visit what, in past years, has been the site of a huge colony of Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). These large, colorful bracket fungi often grow in clusters on living or fallen trees. In this case, the clusters have appeared on a fallen Sugar Maple each September. Chicken of the Woods is recognized by its brilliant yellow to yellow-orange brackets. I’ve never tried eating these brackets, but apparently, they are edible — at least the less woody outer edges. A couple of people have told me they’ve given them a try and didn’t think they were anything to write home about, but perhaps there’s some trick to preparation. In any case, we just appreciate them for their beauty.

This year, we were somewhat disappointed to find that the colony doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. Whereas, in past years, there were massive clusters all over the main stump and the fallen sections of tree, this year we found only a couple of clusters about a foot in diameter. The photo below shows how the fungi looked on the same date in 2005. Both sides of the stump in front of Don was covered with brackets. This year, the cluster in the two views up above were the “biggies” (click on images for larger views). I don’t think the weather can account for the difference as last summer was very hot and dry in this region, and yet the colony was quite impressive. I was expecting at least as good this year, but almost nada. It’s a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the tree is all chickened out.

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6 Responses to “chickened out”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Beautiful fungi. Amazing how often nature provides us with a mystery. So many fungi last year and not so many this year. All those secrets in wood and spore.

  2. Dave Says:

    We eat lots of chicken mushrooms. The trick is getting them as fresh as possible – two or three days after they sprout, they’re already getting a little bland and tough. Fresh color and a virtual lack of rove beetles indicate chicken mushrooms that are still nice and tender. (If they’re *really* fresh you can eat almost all of them, but otherwise, just the outer few inches.) Taste will vary from colony to colony, just as with oyster mushrooms, but in general they are a good, meaty mushroom that doesn’t cook down too much. Good in stir fries, pasta sauce, etc.

  3. Dave Says:

    Also, I should say that we rarely find a good colony on the same log or stump two years in a row.

  4. burning silo Says:

    Dave – Thanks for the notes on the edibility of Chicken of the Woods. I may well give it a try the next time I happen across a fresh one. As for this colony, I think it’s been very good for about 4 years now — we always make a point of dropping by to visit it around the same date, but it must be konking out now.

  5. Wayne Says:

    I’ve been watching fruitlessly for this species. I understand that it is “choice”, and certainly from the name I should hope so. It’s a magnificent fungus, and the photos are fantastic. I now know more of what to be looking for.

    We have the same problem with the oyster mushrooms, but maybe to a lesser extent. They seem to be fleshy for a longer period of time. But I imagine with this one that they do get tough early on, as Dave says.

    I’ll keep on a’lookin’.

  6. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – This is Bev here (spending a night at a motel with wireless due to the very cold weather system blasting across Oregon at the moment). I sometimes find Chicken of the Woods on trees along rivers. However, we do find them in other places in forests, usually in early September. The fungi get kind of “fried” once the hard frosts come.