Local Food Profile: Chicken of the Woods (Sulfur Shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus) Mushroom

I’ve been studying mushrooms for a while now, but this is the first year I’ve had the opportunity to harvest and eat fresh mushrooms that I’ve picked myself! Honestly, there are few things better in this world than a fresh Chicken of the Woods (Sulfur Shelf) mushroom. I have had Chicken of the Woods only once before, and have oggled them in books many times, but this year was my first chance at harvesting them and enjoying them fresh. Chicken of the woods, I was taught, is one of the “foolproof” mushrooms, in that its a beginner mushroom that is easy to identify and tastes delicious.

 Chicken of the Woods Growing
Chicken of the Woods Growing

Last week, a friend and I were driving down the road when he spotted it–a bright mass of mushrooms, 5 or so feet up the trunk.  Excitedly I stopped the car and we got out, laughing and rejoicing at our lucky find. After confirming that the mushroom was Chicken of the Woods, we took pictures and carefully harvested the mushrooms. Here we are!

Dana and Chicken of the Woods!
Me and Chicken of the Woods!
Freshly harvested chicken of the woods!
Paul with freshly harvested chicken of the woods!

Chicken of the Woods most typically grows on dead oak trees. The tree identification is actually really important for this species; there’s a very similar variety that grows on dead hemlock trees that can cause stomach upsets (more about that here).   Where I live in Michigan, however, we have an abundance of oak and no hemlock, so we are in good shape in terms of finding these rare gems. For more photos of the mushroom itself, you can go here.

To harvest chicken of the woods, you want to harvest the tender bottom parts of the mushrooms–as they are softest. The harder bits are too chewy to eat, and if you leave most of the mushroom on the tree, you can come back for a later harvest that season (and certainly that following year).  We are experimenting with the bits that were too chewy that we harvested for a mushroom broth (more on if that will turn out later…other wild mushrooms, like Dryad’s saddle that I was harvesting earlier in the year, have this same problem.)

Harvesting chicken of the woods
Harvesting chicken of the woods

After we harvested the delicious Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, we took it back to my house, cleaned it up, cut it up, and ate a bunch of it (and froze some more). These freeze well and can go into many different dishes. They honestly do taste a lot like chicken and have a wonderful meaty texture!

Awesome cooked mushroom!
Awesome cooked mushroom!


**Disclaimer – you need to have someone knowledgeable with you if you plan on harvesting mushrooms.  Looking at books and websites is not sufficient–identification of mushrooms can lead to fatalities.  The information here is only for informational purposes; please seek out a local mycology club or mushroom hunter guild for direct, experiential guidance! :)**

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (RedFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (RedFeather, 2022), and is the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is a certified permaculture designer and permaculture teacher who teaches sustainable living courses and wild food foraging. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart.

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  1. Wow, that is an abundant mushroom source.

    1. LOL, it is! But they are very hard to cultivate and sometimes hard to find, so its also not a very dependable source :). More like a rare gift if you are to come across it!

  2. Reblogged this on freedomveg and commented:
    no need for meet, mushrooms or eggplants serve the pupose

  3. Hey, Donovan is here at the Strawbale Studio working on the new website, thanks to you ! Chicken of the Woods. I found them here before, as big as me. I will have to look around. This is the time. Deanne

    1. Deanne, I really hope you find some Chicken of the Woods! They are so amazing! And I’m glad to hear that Donovan is helping out with the new website :).

  4. That’s interesting–I had never heard that there was a variety of chicken mushroom that can be poisonous! We often eat wild mushrooms and I’ve never noticed my hubby paying attention to the type of tree for these (we do have a lot of hemlock). I’ll ask him. I’m not a big fan of it myself. I much prefer hen of the woods, another large polypore that comes out in the fall, which is also easy to identify and has no poisonous lookalikes.

    1. What I’ve been taught is that the chicken mushroom on hemlock isn’t poisonous, but it can cause stomach upset in some people. I just found another chicken of the woods yesterday–it wasn’t in the prime condition the 1st one was in, but it was on a burned-out oak stump. We fried it up last night and it was eaten up quite quickly!

      1. Sorry, I was using “poisonous” in a broad sense that would include stomach upset. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. 🙂 Hubby says that as far as he knows, the type on hemlock is the same as the hardwood type, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to stick with a type that you know is safe. Mushroomers have these debates endlessly. 🙂

  5. cool! that’s a prime specimen. try making chicken mushroom sushi with the tenderest parts- delicious! Chickenmushrooms.com

    1. I am totally going to try that! Thanks for the info! 🙂

  6. With books to identify and spore prints to back it up,, positive identification isn’t a problem for most varieties of local muchrooms. Still only eat a small amount wh err n trying each new variety for the first time. Like any food, some may be sensitive to some variety.

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