Hen of the Woods
Being as there are no toxic members of the polypore family, familiarizing yourself with the four choicely edible members of this family, Hen of the Woods, Beefsteak mushroom, Oyster Mushroom, and the Chicken Mushroom is an excellent idea for the beginner mushroom hunter. Find this widespread, yet elusive mushroom, is a wonderful experience. Once you pick this well camouflaged mushroom out from the background leaves, you will not believe you did not see it before.
Ram's Head, Sheep's Head
Meripilaceae - Meripilus family
This mushroom is huge, with some specimens reaching 100 lbs or more; It really does look like a large, ruffled chicken, or partridge. It grows from a central point similar to that of a bouquet of grayish-brown, fan-shaped, overlapping caps. The stalks are off center, white, and branching from a single thick base. The underside pore surface is white.
¾" - 2¾" wide; overlapping, flat, fan to spoon shaped; grayish to gray-brown; dry, smooth or finely fibrous to roughened. Flesh 3 - 5 mm thick. White.
Rudimentary or very short and thick; many-branched; white, smooth.
2 - 3 mm long; descending stalk. pores (1 -3 per mm) angular, white to yellowish
5 - 7 x 3.5 - 5 µ; broadly elliptical, smooth, colorless
3 - 5 mm thick
September - November
On ground at base of oak and other deciduous trees, and some conifers; also on stumps.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms Description:
Large, clustered mass of grayish-brown, fleshy, spoon shaped caps with whitish pores and lateral, white stalks branching from a compound base.
Cap: ¾" - 2¾" wide; overlapping, flat, fan to spoon shaped; grayish to gray-brown; dry, smooth or finely fibrous to roughened. Flesh 3 - 5 mm thick. White.
Tubes: 2 - 3 mm long; descending stalk. pores (1 -3 per mm) angular, white to yellowish.
Stalk: rudimentary or very short and thick; many-branched; white, smooth.
Spores: 5 - 7 x 3.5 - 5 µ; broadly elliptical, smooth, colorless.
Remember that many gilled mushrooms grow in large clumps, but hen-of-the-woods is a pore fungus, and does not have gills. There are some similar species of pore fungi that are tough and inedible. If what you have tastes leathery and unpleasant, chances are you did not pick a Hen of the Woods.
Wild Food Uses:
Perhaps one of the best of all edible mushrooms. Not just because of its choice taste, but because of the sheer volume of mushroom you will end up with.
The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.