A splendid fruiting of Sulphur Shelves! (c) Photo by Liz Cornish.

A splendid fruiting of Sulphur Shelves! (c) Photo by Liz Cornish.

Like a sort of ubiquitous aliment, it seems like a lot of people seem to think that a lot of things tastes like chicken. I know I’ve had this sensation a lot of times with a few types of foods I’ve sampled for the first time, and there are some people who use the phrase “tastes like chicken” when exploring a totally obscure cuisines just for the sake of laughs or to reference pop culture.

There is, however, a particular dish that actually tastes like chicken and of all things it’s a mushroom – the Laetiporus. If you take a long strong down the woods, you might actually run into this quite common mushroom, which is actually popularly referenced as chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus.

The Laetiporus can be recognized by its large yellow or orange shelved mushroom growing on trees, which can range from 2-10 inches across. These shelves are made up of many tiny tubular filaments (hyphae). The mushroom grows in large brackets – some have been found that weigh over 100 pounds (45 kg). It is most commonly found on wounds of trees, mostly oak, though it is also frequently found on eucalyptus, yew, cherry wood, sweet chestnut, and willow, as well as conifers in some species.

Besides its excellen and practical cullinary value, by the way it’s acutally considered a delicacy in Germany and in some parts of America, the Laetiporus can be quite the pest, since the fungus causes brown rot, a type of wood decay, in its host tree, thus threatening the tree’s health.

The Laetiporus is long raved as an excellent alternative to chicken, taste-wise, providing to be an excellent ingredient for any vegetarian diet. The fruiting bodies, basically the mushroom’s shelves, are the edible part, which are rendered tasty only when cooked.

An advanced warning for mushroom and chicken aficionados, though: the Laetiporus has been known, albeit in very small percentages, to cause allergic reactions. They’re pretty mild nevertheless, like swollen lips or in rare cases nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation. So be picky and very weary of what you eat in the woods.

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