Chicken of the Woods

Laetiporus sulphureus and Polyporus sulphureus


Appears in

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

By Elizabeth Schneider

Published 2001

  • About

Also sulphur shelf, chicken mushroom

Several mushrooms have inspired comparisons to poultry, but the likening makes more sense in this case than in some others. Laetiporus sulphureus is no relative to hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa) or fried chicken mushrooms (Lyophyllum decastes group), but it does, with a little imagination, suggest lemony chicken—unlike so many foods that are described as chicken-like but aren’t.

The wild fungus grows in fleshy, knobby projecting clusters that develop into shell- or feather-like curves. The sueded two-tone mass, bun-to-beehive in size, is soft to sharp orange and butter to ocher; the distinct pores (not gills) on the underside are bright yellow; the interior is subdued. When the mushroom is young, its thick flesh is solid and smoothly uniform, breaking into fiberless golden chunks when fork-cut. But while young specimens are velvety, yielding, and flavorful, older ones—however handsome—can be stiff, fibrous, and allergy-provoking.