We went out looking for tree nuts and ended up instead with this lovely Chicken-of-the-Woods mushroom. My husband was the one to spot it, as I tramped right over it! It is also called Sulpher Shelf and it is a favorite foraged mushroom because not only is it very nice to eat, but there are no poison lookalikes. Some folks say it really doesn't taste like chicken, I think it does. The texture is very much like chicken breast. Like tofu it will become whatever you flavor it to be. Really, if you didn't know this was a mushroom, wouldn't you think this sliced up bit is cooked chicken breast? The black and white feather is turkey, found near the mushroom.
Chicken-of-the-Woods grows on trees, logs and roots. Bring a sharp knife, you'll have to slice it off. Look at this color! We found two this size, but some bunches can be huge. It you are lucky enough to come across a giant clump you should cook it at once if you won't be able to eat it all within a couple of days. After it's cooked, freeze it and throw it into soups and stews, rice dishes, casseroles or pasta as you want it. You can also dry it out to store it, but it requires more fat to cook it in to rehydrate.
The underside ranges from light yellow to white. They are best eaten when they are young and tender. When they get big they are hard and woody. In that case I would just trim off the very tips to eat.
You can bake it, braise it or as I did here, saute it. Since finding this Chicken-of-the-Woods was a surprise treat I had to fit it into my already planned lunch, curried pumpkin soup. We came home from our foraging walk hungry. As the soup was heating up I sauteed the mushroom. Very tasty, like crispy bits of fried chicken.
You will find these mushrooms growing in shady woods and sunny city parks. We found ours on the grounds of Sunnyside, Washington Irving's home. As I've said, there are no poison lookalikes for Chicken-of-the-Woods, so if you are new to mushroom hunting, this is a good one to start with.