So I was driving down the street.At 35 miles an hour, the posted speed limit.
From behind my extremely dirty windshield I noticed bright orange patches. Bright orange patches I had, coincidentally, read about the night before on Mushroom-Collecting.com.
I was thrilled. The day before I had been foraging on a local hilltop (I'd call it a mountain but that would be amusingly hyperbolic) and had found nothing. Sure, there was the usual gathering of little brown mushrooms and acorns but not much else. I found some odd tooth-like mushrooms that I had seen before in Maine and recalled they were called sulfur shelf mushrooms, also known as Laetiporus Sulphureus. Turns out they weren't actually sulfur shelves, but the next day, driving to the farmstand to pick up some produce, I spotted actual sulfur shelves - Chicken-of-the-Woods - on a dead tree growing on the side of the road. Score!
I'm pretty short and the mushrooms were pretty high up on the tree. I made a few feeble attempts to knock them down with an outstretched hand as I jumped (I'm sure passing motorists found it amusing). Fail. So I jumped back into the car, thinking I would back it up to the tree and climb on the roof of the car to get a few extra feet of height. Instead I found an ice scraper that gave me just enough extra height to knock down, pinata-style, the lowest rung of fungus.
Here's my haul - the only bit I could reach:
Chicken-of-the-Woods (not to be confused with Hen-of-the-Woods) is best when it is still young. It grows quickly, so the sooner it is harvested, the tastier (and less woody) it is.These were, luckily, still pretty young. I washed them (usually a no-no with mushrooms, but these were pretty dirty where they had been attached to the tree and I didn't really want to eat the bugs who had made their home there) and then sauteed them with garlic, and fresh bay and thyme from my garden.
I ate some of them immediately with eggs. They were delicious - a bit smoky, a tiny bit chewy, and so flavorful. Some mycology books recommend using the mushrooms "as you would use chicken" but that seems a bit limited, considering how much it looks like salmon, especially when tossed with pasta.
I garnished a summer/fall saute with the mushrooms and used it in a dish I served to friends at a dinner party. Here's the sauteed vegetables before I plated them with poached eggs:
That's roasted beets, roasted radishes, two kinds of carrots from my garden, flageolets from a neighbor at the community garden, Brussels sprouts from a demonstration garden, purple fingerling potatoes, patty pan squash and the chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms. Colorful...and tasty.
(this post is part of The Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays).