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Chicken of the Woods - Growth Observation

Updated: Oct 25, 2023


Greetings fungiphiles, and happy Autumn!

Just as last year, transitioning from Summer to Fall in my little home microcosm meant a fresh crop of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms growing from a eucalyptus stump in my backyard.

The mushrooms' easy access prompted me to do a (very) amateur growth study of the two specimens that emerged, using both photography and measurement. I (oh so creatively) nick-named the specimens "Lateral Chicken" and "Vertical Chicken" based on their location on the host stump, and studied each individually. Then, at the end of the study, I cooked one!

Here's what I observed:

Name: Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus gilbertsonii); also goes by "sulphur shelf," "chicken mushroom," or "chicken fungus"

Found: Anna's backyard, East San Francisco Bay Area, CA, growing on a eucalyptus stump

Days photographed: October 12 ("Day 1") - October 20 ("Day 9") (except Oct 18)

Days measured: October 13 - October 20

Notes: it rained on October 16 and 17

"LATERAL CHICKEN" STUDY:

PHOTO A:

("Horizontal Chicken"; Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)

PHOTO B:

("Horizontal Chicken"; Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)

PHOTO C:

("Horizontal Chicken"; Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8)

PHOTO D:

("Horizontal Chicken"; Days 1, 3, 4, 5, 6)

RESULTS:

  • Between Days 2 and 7, the lateral chicken continued to expand in mass by an average of 40% each day. (W: 65%, L: 38%, H: 19%)

  • Starting day 7, the lateral chicken began to shrink in mass by an average of 14% each day. (W: 25%, L: 8%, H: 8%)

"VERTICAL CHICKEN" STUDY:

PHOTO E:

("Vertical Chicken"; Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9)

PHOTO F:

("Vertical Chicken"; Days 3, 5, 6, 8)

PHOTO G:

(Days 2, 3, 6, 8, 9)

RESULTS:

  • Between Days 2 and 9, the lateral chicken continued to expand in mass by an average of 27% each day. (W: 32%, L: 21%, H: 29%)

  • On day 9 I cut 1/3 of the specimen from the stump for cooking purposes thus ending the experiment.

  • The "Horizontal Chicken" popped up first - so it was no surprise that it began to shrink in size when the "Vertical Chicken" was continuing to expand outward.

FROM STUMP TO STOVE:

If you know me, you know that I NEVER eat mushrooms, and never have, not even from the grocery store. I dislike their taste and have never had a desire to widen my palate to try those considered to be "delicacy" - even the plethora of wild choice edibles I have stumbled upon throughout my years of photographing.

With this study, I decided to change that!

  • 1/3 C Chicken of the Woods mushrooms fresh from the stump

  • 1 TBSP butter

  • Salt and pepper

Cut mushrooms into 1" slices or squares, favoring the edges. Sautee over low-medium heat for 10-13 minutes until mushrooms are a deep orange color and are tender through.

I wanted to try the mushrooms as "plainly" as I could for my first taste of this species, and based on recipes online and suggestions from friends, this seemed like a good way to go to get a more authentic taste.

Disclaimer: It is important to note that this mushroom is known to cause gastrointestinal upset, especially if found growing on Eucalyptus, just as this one was. It is suggested that "if you decide to try it, eat only the young, fresh, growing margins, in small quantities, and cook it thoroughly." I prepared a very minor amount of the specimen, and we sampled an even smaller amount for taste (one piece each), so I can't comment on digestion. Please proceed and consume with caution!

Cut mushrooms into 1" slices or squares, favoring the edges.

over low-medium heat for 10-13 minutes...Saute

...until mushrooms are a deep orange color and are tender through.

Verdict:

Well, they certainly taste like chicken! They reminded me of yams, or sweet potatoes, but with a definite chicken taste. Alas I still remain in the "fungi aren't for my table" boat - but here's to trying something new!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

“The sulphur shelf is unusual in that it fruits well before the start of Bay Area rainy season, often in very dry weather. Nonetheless, fruitings, which can be massive, can literally exude moisture. The brightly-colored shelves persist several weeks, then fade to grayish-white, crumble and fall to the ground. Fruitings repeat year after year from the same stump or log.

Our sulphur shelf has long [been] known locally as Laetiporus sulphureus. But we now know that the true L. sulphureus does not occur in the Western United States and that the sulphur shelf that grows on hardwoods in California needs the new name Laetiporus gilbertsonii. The sulphur shelf that grows conifers in California is now called Laetiporus conifericola.” The fungus is considered parasitic.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS:

Day 2:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

Day 8:

(Laetiporus gilbertsonii)

Comments encouraged, and thanks for reading! 🍄🍄




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