If you’re used to looking for wild mushrooms in nature, wandering through the woods is often enough to discover clusters of Hen of the Woods mushrooms – as long as you know where to look.
But how do you find them, and how can you actually identify these quirky fungi, making sure you’ve got the right ones and turning them into an actual culinary masterpiece? Below we will explore all that and more!
Discovering Hen of the Woods
One of the main things to remember is that you need to hunt for these fungi around oak trees – that’s their spot! Look for Hen of the Woods mushroom clusters in late summer to early fall.
Here are a few quick identification tips to keep in mind:
- Think ruffled hen feathers, that’s the general appearance.
- Colors vary from pale to dark brown; look closely, since they can blend in with the surrounding fallen leaves.
- Check the underside – it’s all pores, no gills!
- These mushroom clusters can get pretty hefty, weighing in at several pounds.
Lookalikes include Black-staining polypore, Brekeley’s polypore and Umbrella polypore, which tend to be non-toxic. Nevertheless, it’s good practice to consult with an expert if you have limited experience with Hen of the Woods mushrooms.
How to Properly Store and Cook the Mushrooms
You can harvest and store fresh Hen of the Woods mushrooms for up to 1 week, or freeze them for long term storage of up to 6 months. The typical method is to use a plastic bag with a dry paper towel to store them, and keep the container in the refrigerator.
When it comes to cooking, Hen of the Woods is your culinary sidekick. Its rich, earthy flavor and meaty texture make it a superstar in the kitchen. Sauté it up for a quick dish, roast it for that smoky flavor, or throw it on the grill for some extra oomph. And the versatility doesn’t stop there – pasta, risotto, stir-fries, or soups, you name it, Hen of the Woods is game.
You’ll find the mushrooms to be very versatile, rich and earthy, with a meaty texture. You can sauté, roast, or grill them up. It’s also good practice to use them with pasta, risotto, stir-fries, soups.
If you have little access to forested areas needed to find mushrooms in nature, searching online for specially curated mushroom spores of great quality is an easy solution.