I have been searching for many years for illusive seasonal edible mushrooms. It was quite to my surprise when I found a huge plethora of Laetiperus, or, 'chicken of the woods' on accident. I actually just finished up a hunt for Morels the previous weekend. I carried my little fair trade foraging basket and searched high and low mainly on southward facing slopes in a national park between Chattanooga and Carters Lake, Canton Georgia. To my dismay, I came back home with an empty basket. This is usually how mushroom hunting goes as the little fungi can often be quite illusive. So this most recent haul felt like an absolute gift from the Divine! Laetiperus is sulphur-yellow to bright orange in color and has a suedelike texture. The Chicken of the Woods tasted more like Crab of the Woods! It has the most delicious unique taste and texture. I sauteed them up in vegan butter and herbs from our garden.
Laetiperus can be found on living hardwoods. I found these at the foot of a White Oak Tree. Mushroom hunting isnt just looking on forest floors, but searching and knowing your trees.
I have several field guides, but my favorite is the National Audobon Society guide. It is small enough for your pack and can be thumbed through quickly with easy descriptive tabs to assist in your foraging.
I have been studying Mycology in my spare time after taking a free class in 2016. Thats right, its taken me two years to find my first edible mushroom! One thing I remember from the class is the most common edible mushrooms have white gills. BUT be careful as some of the most poisonous mushrooms out there also have white gills. You can take spore prints to make certain you have found an edible variety, and NEVER EVER eat a mushroom you cannot identify!
There are at least 270 species of mushroom that are known to have various therapeutic properties. Some of the benefits include antioxidants, anti-hypertensive and cholesterol-lowering properties, liver protection, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. I am no doctor so please dont go pick any mushroom thinking that I am suggesting it will heal your ailments!! I am encouraging you to research the benefits, educate yourself on identification and get out there and have fun! Ben and I are naturalists at heart. We belive Mother Nature offers us all we need.
So get your field guides and get outside!
*This blog post is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure. Forage at your own risk.