Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods is a yellow-pored mushroom with an orange surface. As its name suggests, it has a texture similar to white meat chicken. This polypore is best harvested when young, as it will be softer when cooked.

Also known as COW, it’s one of the most common mushroom foraging finds in the United States. It makes for an excellent first edible mushroom for a foraging beginner and is an incredible meat alternative.

Chicken of the Woods is almost exclusively found in the wild, as it’s difficult to cultivate. This makes it a valuable delicacy that’s usually hard to find for purchase.

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Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Season

Chicken of the Woods are parasitic mushrooms which will often grow on beech, oak, and chestnut hardwoods, but rarely on conifers. Typically this bracket fungus grows on standing tree trunks already decomposing, and may even infect live trees and kill them as it grows. It usually begins fruiting in the late summer or fall. Larger growths may even survive the winter and continue fruiting in the following year.

Chicken of the Woods Benefits

For those looking for meat alternatives, this mushroom is the perfect substitute for chicken. It is low in fat and calories, and high in protein, while also providing potassium and vitamin C. As with many mushrooms, scientists continue to study the many health benefits, but studies have shown benefits including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, as well as helping to balance hormones and reduce blood sugar. Like all products used for health benefits, you should always check with your health care provider before adding a new supplement.

Cooking Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods are a favorite of Foraged co-founder Jack, who enjoys sauteing, pickling, and frying this versatile mushroom. This mushroom, like most wild mushrooms, should not be eaten raw. It takes on a silky texture when sauteed and can work in place of chicken in most dishes. The yellow-pored version of the species tends to be meatier than the white-pored variation. Others suggest breading them to make chicken nuggets, or adding them to pasta or curry dishes.

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To learn more, read our blog "The Essential Guide to Chicken of the Woods"

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