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Chicken of the Woods!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


When we came back from our New England trip, we noticed something different on the enormous red oak tree by our mailbox. It was a growth, a spectacular one.
It took the Chimp awhile, but I finally remembered its name. Chicken of the Woods, so called because it is edible, and has a texture, if not a taste, similar to chicken breast. Oh! Oh!

Also (dully) called Sulfur Fungus, Laetiporous sulfureus comes in two forms--shelflike, and globby, like ours. They may be two separate species. You can tell that I did a bit of Web research before committing to eat this beauty. You can't be too careful with 'shrooms.Both forms are edible, and I mean to cook some of this big mess o' mushroom up. You're supposed to cook them when they're very fresh (which this is) and sautee them for 10 whole minutes--wow. I guess the chances of your lips going numb are less if they're well-cooked. OK. I can do that. I loooove wild mushrooms, especially big obvious ones like Chicken of the Woods. Wonder if I'll be able to get the bairns to try it?I can see them now, sticking just the tip of a quivering tongue out to touch it briefly to the fungus, even drowned in garlic and butter and served over pasta. Probably too smart to eat a wild mushroom, even one identified by The Science Chimp. I won't try it on Baker. Who knows if dogs can eat wild mushrooms? If macadamias, grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs, all bets are off.It don't smell that good to me, Mether. I would not eat it. But I will pee on it for you if you would like me to.

Being a blog ant, I wrote this post before I cooked it up for the family. It sliced and sauteed beautifully, keeping a firm meaty texture. As predicted, the kids each ate about a square millimeter. Liam said he liked it but refused seconds with a polite, "Ummm, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but no thank you." Phoebe made no pretense; just the thought grossed her out. But she did eat a tiny bit. Bill liked it OK, but he's not much for mushrooms. So I ate my portion, and both kids' and some of Bill's. And, like an idiot, had a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with it.

Along about bedtime, I felt kind of droopy, a little toxic. This progressed to feeling like crap. At 3 AM, I had the sensation of having an esophagus level full of stomach acid. Nice. What a disappointment for a hopeful and enthusiastic woodswoman. I've since learned from my woodswise neighbor Sherm that wine and mushrooms, much as they'd seem to be pals, are a no-no. Sherm asked if he might carve off a shank to cook, and I gladly assented, after warning him about my experience. I ate a lot of wild mushrooms, including Chicken of the Woods (oyster mushrooms and morels being my favorite) when I was living on a Nature Conservancy preserve in Connecticut, but that was before I became a wino. Not the mushroom's fault. My fault.

Chicken of the Woods, for all its homey name, is a serious tree pathogen, which infects and kills trees with brown rot. Buhhhmer. I hope it's slow-acting. We love this old oak, which shades our mail (good for shipping mealworms in summer) and the bluebird box. It's made its own island of habitat for northern fence lizards, and many kinds of birds and animals, who perch in its branches and feed on its acorns. I cannot imagine our entry without it. I hope it's true, as my DOD used to say, that trees are 50 years growing, 50 years living, and 50 years dying. Then I won't have to say good-bye.

A little Halloween present for you, courtesy of my sister, Micky. When we were in high school, we absolutely lived for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents story collections. One of the stories was called The Desrick on Yandro, and it has stuck with me over the thirty years since I last read it. It was written by Manly Wade Wellman, and it evokes a strong sense of place. If you've ever driven up a winding North Carolina mountain road so steep you wonder if your car will tip over backward, it's guaranteed to give you shivers. Tonight, I'll read it to our babies by the light of a jack-o-lantern. Click the link, and tell me what you think! Sweet dreams of Bammats and Flats!

14 comments:

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I dearly *love* "Chicken of the Woods"! My roomie and I cooked it in the pressure cooker to make sure it was done, then dipped it in evaporated milk, dredged it in seasoned flour for breading, and fried it. Sooooo good!

I dearly *love* "Chicken of the Woods"! My roomie and I cooked it in the pressure cooker to make sure it was done, then dipped it in evaporated milk, dredged it in seasoned flour for breading, and fried it. Sooooo good!

Then we gave some to our neighbor; told him we had caught a "wild chicken" in the woods. We're all vegetarian, so he was surprised...but he believed us--it tasted like chicken, he said.

Yum!

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