Chicken of the Woods is one of the few mushrooms I have eaten from wild picking. My parents were leery of mushrooms and passed that fear on.
Imagine my surprise last year when I grabbed a large chunk of deadwood to add to my hugelkultur beds, and found Chicken of the Woods growing on it. Don’t ask how I missed that neon sign, but I was looking for snakes. Subtle colors and shapes. It was a pretty long log for here, about 15 feet.
Mushrooms in New Mexico? Sure enough, up in the mountains we have mushrooms. Commonly during our 2 month wet season.
I gently put the wood back in place, and hope I get more mushrooms every year. My pinyon die off has created habitat for mushrooms. I haven’t lost many pinyons, but the mushrooms found them and are exploiting the resource.
I will exploit the mushrooms. Yum.
Reading up on Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus conifercola, there are conflicting accounts, but about 15 percent of people have terrible stomach upset with them. I will harvest a little and eat a small amount before declaring they are good for me to eat. Note I said stomach upset not death dealing.
The most famous Chicken of the Woods is L. sulfureus which usually grows on oak back east.
I have put some mushroom books on my wish list to increase my knowledge of these amazing fungi. I also checked out the Mycological Society of New Mexico. I will grow a few mushrooms, and I will start by ordering known varieties. My food forest garden has a couple shady spots that could grow mushrooms, and aren’t growing much else. Now that my neon sign woke me up, I am game to try mushrooms.
My indoor garden is good for growing mushrooms, and once I maximize the yield, I can break up the substrate and inoculate outdoors.
New DNA testing shows that fungi are closely related to animals and they may be joined into Animalia. They have complete proteins like animals, and are close to meat as a protein source because they have the 8 essential amino acids. Fungi have chitin like insects instead of cellulose like plants, and eating fungi lowers both body fat and cholesterol. Mushrooms are low in fat but have linoleic acid, an Omega 6 essential fatty acid. Considering its nutritional boost of protein, minerals, and B vitamins, mushrooms are a boon for any diet.
To have these growing in my New Mexico mountain food forest is an amazing and welcome surprise.
Collecting in the wild? Sure, after I learn from a guide who can show me what is good and what to look for. In any event, Chicken of the Woods is a lucky find.