Chicken of the woods mushrooms primarily grow on oak trees in Pennsylvania, especially older, decaying oak trunks and logs in mature secondary forests during summer and early fall. They also occur less often on dying cherry and beech trees.
Focus searching on the trunks and bases of living or dead oaks, as well as fallen logs, throughout the state.
When to Search
Chicken of the woods can be found from spring through fall, but peak fruiting occurs in the summer and early autumn months between June and September.
High temperatures and humidity create ideal conditions.
Expect to find chicken of the woods popping up annually in the same locations.
Where to Look
This mushroom grows as a parasite on decaying wood, mostly favoring oak trees in Pennsylvania.
Scan trunks and stumps of living, dying, or dead oaks and sometimes cherry and beech trees.
Check older secondary forests with established hardwoods.
Growth often occurs 20 feet above ground, so also examine fallen logs.
Look for numerous crowded caps emerging from wood in a shelf-like formation.
The top surface starts out yellow-orange then ages to salmon or reddish.
The creamy underside has tiny pores rather than gills.
The flesh is juicy with a wood-like texture. Smells are mild to fungoid.
Use a knife to cut mushrooms as close to the base as possible. Remove any parts with insects, and trim off dried out caps.
Clean dirt and debris gently with a soft brush.
Refrigerate in breathable containers, using within 3-4 days. Don’t wash until ready to cook.
Lookalikes to Avoid
Some inedible sulfur shelf mushrooms resemble chicken of the woods.
Make positive identification by the fruiting body shape, coloration, texture, smell, and growth habit on oak trees.
Compare with field guides. If uncertain, don’t harvest.
Consuming the wrong mushroom can cause gastrointestinal illness.
Cooking and Preserving
Known for its versatile flavor and meat-like qualities, chicken of the woods excels in any dish calling for chicken breast or fillet. Sautee, stir fry, grill, bread and fry cutlets, or use in soups. Preserve via dehydrating or freezing. Always cook thoroughly before eating.
With chicken of the woods retail prices ranging $20-$30 per pound, a successful foraging outing can yield quite a bounty.
Follow the tips above to hunt one of the tastiest edible mushrooms in Pennsylvania’s oak forests.
Just be 100% certain of your identification before eating any wild fungi.
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