Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chicken of the Woods in Constantia

 Photo: Maureen Viljoen

Not the feathered kind. The delicious, oak-hugging kind. I feel betrayed. I checked this tree weekly for signs of fungal life while I was in Cape Town. Last year it fruited in mid February (it is a summer mushroom), in time for us to gather some and enjoy it for supper, while my mother abstained and waited to cart us all to hospital. Then, it was the first of this kind I had ever seen, and we ID'd it with the help of Gary Lincoff in New York, and Ellen in an airport in Alberqueque, New Mexico. Instant Internet.

Fortunately it is an easy one to identify, with no scary lookalikes, and we slept in peace that night. This is, I think, Laetiporous cincinnatus - white-pored chicken of the woods, as opposed to Laetiporus sulphureus, which has orange pores underneath. This version is supposed to be even better than the other. Now, it has fruited again. And this unreachable mushroom is 8,000 miles away from me. The pain of an ex patriate forager. Can you feel it?

Photo: Maureen Viljoen

Does it taste like chicken? Well, the texture might be likened to tender chicken breast. This mushroom lends itself to slow cooking, as it is very dense. Or to being treated like a schnitzel. Or to being chopped into a duxelle with fine onion and sauteed as a topping for mushroomy pizzas, a stuffing for dumplings, a soup base. It has a wonderfully mushroomy aroma.


  1. Maureen, does it only grow on oaks? I've been hoping to get good enough at ID-ing these, that I may partake this summer! Any extra help is great!

    1. Hi Rachelle, I'm Marie, the blogger, Maureen is my mom, and took the photos:-) Mostly on oaks, yes (which it actually can kill), but sometimes on pines. Pines might make it taste funny. Do not rely only on me for the ID. At least one good book is a good idea, as is the help of a local mycologist (mushroom expert). A couple of great Facebook groups are Foragers Unite and Wild Mushrooming Hunting. Very helpful for ID's.

  2. Oh my... what an amazing bit of nature you've captured with your camera.

    We should never get bored on this planet... there are just too many glimpses of interesting things, shapes, textures, whatever... to enchant, amuse, enthuse and delight our senses.

    Wishing you a beautiful rest of the day.............

  3. My mouth just watered. And I picked up the latest edition of Martha Stewart - what a wonderful spread! Congratulations!

  4. Marie, is your mother taunting you? it's a lovely mushroom. wish I had one, too.

  5. I do indeed feel your pain, especially since there was no evidence of nearby racoons!


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