Click here for my video of how to find, prepare, and dehydrate Chicken of the Woods!
There is an old tattered book on my library shelf that was written in the 1960s. Every time I pick it up, a distant memory stirs within me. A memory that is partly true and mostly wishful.
The book is called Stalking the Wild Asparagus and is written by Euell Gibbons. Here’s a little ditty from the book cover:
The memory that is partly true is a childhood where I drank from the honeysuckles in the woods behind our home, created moss-covered “carpets” in secret hiding spaces, and gathered wild strawberries to mash and eat. The mostly wishful parts are memories of an abundant garden in our backyard and wandering through the woods gathering mushrooms and all sorts of wild berries. In my mind, I think that happened way back then. In reality, it did. Yet those times were a rarity.
And, there it was.
A couple of years ago my in-laws moved to a five-acre property about fifteen minutes away from us. Although mostly pasture, the property has HUUUUGE old oak trees that are simply stunning.
One year, my mother-in-law was PUMPED to see that one of those old oak trees had a wild mushroom growing on it. Not just any ordinary mushroom. This one was a stunning bright orange mushroom that was growing on a root.
My little niece wanted to taste it so she broke off a piece and submerged it in water to “get all the grass and bugs out.”
What resulted was a soggy, limp, tasteless, jelly-like lump of gross.
Therefore, I ignored those bright orange mushrooms from then on.
Year after year.
A second chance.
Last June, while mowing my mother-in-law’s pasture, I mowed a swipe near that old oak tree. The Chicken of the Woods mushroom was back. And it was GLORIOUS!
It was almost BEGGING me to try it again!
PLEADING me to give it a second chance.
I almost laughed out loud because I thought about a rooster crowing early in the morning to get the attention of the day – and his hens. This orange rooster was not just begging he was COK-A-DOODLE-DO-ING to get my attention!
“C’mon,” he taunted, “Look at me! I’m awesome! I’m only here for a week or two! Try me! Try me! Try meeee!”
And so, I did what he said.
Prepared correctly, Chicken of the Woods is FABULOUS!
Exactly what IS a Chicken of the Woods mushroom?
Okay, good question. Chicken of the Woods is a fungi that is safe to eat when it grows off an oak tree. Sometimes it will grow off of a conifer or a tree that blooms but it’s safest to stick with mushrooms that grow off of an oak tree.
If you’re unsure, please check your extension office and do a whole lot of Googling. No one needs to get sick, okay?
Here in Northwest Arkansas, Chicken of the Woods pops out in late May and early June and will last just a short week or two. Dennis and I like to harvest them right away and put them in the fridge to preserve them before dehydrating or sautéing them up for dinner.
Chicken of the Woods range from pale orange to bright POW-WOW orange. They have an earthy, mushroomy smell.
You also want to be super firm.
No buggy or soggy mushrooms, please!
Okay, sometimes you get a bug hanging around. Just pick them off and send them on their merry way.
How do you prepare Chicken of the Woods?
A mushroom brush or a damp paper towel is all you need to clean Chicken of the Woods. You’ll quickly see that if there are sticks or grass in the path of the mushroom, he’ll glad just take in whatever is in his path. No harm. No foul.
After wiping clean and remove debris, trim and thinly slice the mushroom just like you would any mushroom.
Side note, when you slice up the larger pieces, you may find yourself doing a double-take because it really does look like chicken!
How do you preserve Chicken of the Woods?
Think of Chicken of the Woods as any other mushroom. If I were to describe the taste, it taste like a hotdog. You can immediately cut it up and sauté it with eggs, add it to rice, or you name it. My favorite way is to cook it up in butter and add it to my eggs or put it on pizza.
Anyway you slice it (ha) Chicken of the Woods is a-ma-zing! You just need a little know-how to preserve it correctly.
I use a dehydrator to dry the mushrooms so I can store them and use them almost indefinitely. All I have to do is let them soak in some water and they will quickly rehydrate and then I use them as if they were fresh.
Scroll down for my recipe for dehydrating Chicken of the Woods.
Click here for my video of how to find, prepare, and dehydrate Chicken of the Woods
Are you a forager?
Foraging for these Chicken of the Woods mushrooms brings back happy memories from years ago when the hardest thing I had to do on a summer day was to make it back home on time from playing in the woods so I could make swim team practice on time.
And while those days of playing in the woods (and swim team practice) are long gone, I can still find ways to tap into happy wanderings and slow down a notch by foraging.
I wonder if getting older technically slows us down or whether it’s simply an intention to slow things down? My guess is a little of both. I’ll let you know when I really start to get older!
Life is short.
Let’s make the most of it!
Eat joyfully and live happily,
How to Dehydrate Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
Break apart Chicken of the Woods mushroom into easy-to-slice sizes.
Prepare mushrooms by wiping clean with damp paper towel and removing all debris.
Thinly slice mushrooms. The thinner you slice, the faster they will dehydrate.
Place sliced mushrooms on your dehydrator’s drying racks. Pack them tightly as they will shrink. It is best to not overlay as they will stick together. If they do, no worries. Simply break them up once dried.
Set your dehydrator to 145 degrees and set a timer for 3 hours. If they are still limp, continue to dehydrate an additional thirty minutes or until firm. They are ready if they easily break apart.
Store in glass containers, storage bags, or in vacuum-sealed bags. I like to save the silica bags that come in vitamins for moisture control.