I’ve been foraging mushrooms for nearly 2 years. It is so exciting to find tasty treats in the wild.
The other morning I found my first Chicken of the Woods; a highly sought after and desired mushroom. Nearly as prized as chanterelles, morels, porcinis, …
I researched and there are so many suggestions on how to prepare; I eliminated any fried chicken style suggestions, and decided on a teriyaki style marinade.
So first thing was to clean and slice. I then created a marinade with soy, honey, olive oil, sambal, ginger, onion, and garlic. I let that sit, stirring every hour or so for a few hours.
I should have grilled but instead got out a cast iron skillet ( I am still trying to get the char off the pan).
And here you have meal one; white rice, steamed spinach, and teriyaki mushrooms. Oh My Gosh, so good!
I think for lunch today we will have wraps; whole wheat tortillas, spinach, rice, mushrooms, bell peppers…
and oh my gosh don’t even get me started on the medicinal properties
Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Benefits
The most obvious benefit of chicken-of-the-woods is that it’s edible, at least while the fruiting body is young (older fruiting bodies get tough and brittle). Not only is it a good vegetarian chicken substitute, but it’s a low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein food. A 100g serving has only 33 calories, but 14g of protein, and it’s a good source of potassium and Vitamin C[v]. Compare that to a serving of chicken breast (the kind with feathers) of the same size, which has double the protein but five times the calories[vi]. Plus, all mushrooms are cholesterol-free, whereas birds are not.
Chicken-of-the-woods also has a long history in folk medicine in Europe for fighting infections (it has also been powdered and used as snuff)[vii]. Modern research has shown that the mushroom has a large number of biochemical constituents, many of which have medicinal potential—and some are already in use in a variety of products[viii]. The following properties, and others, are either known or suspected for the mushroom:
Chicken-of-the-woods, or extracts from the mushroom, can suppress the growth of a number of microorganisms, such as gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Candida (a normally benign yeast that can over-grow and cause several human diseases), and Aspergillus flavus, a mold that produces a carcinogenic toxin. Substances isolated from the mushroom can also remove denture and dental plaque and are used in commercially-available dry-mouth treatments.
On a less-useful note, one of the bacteria types chicken-of-the-woods can suppress is the one used to ferment both pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut, meaning that the mushroom itself is probably impossible to pickle.
Both chicken of the woods or substances extracted from the mushroom have either suppressed the growth of, or actually killed several different cancers, either in mice or in cultured cell lines in vitro. The cancers involved include stomach cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, and liver cancer. One of the substances identified as potentially anti-carcinogenic can now be synthetically produced and is being further investigated.
Hormonal Balancing Properties
One substance found within chicken of the woods mushroom promotes the creation of estrogen by the body, and could become part of a treatment for health problems involving low levels of estrogen. Another may be able to undo radiation damage to certain bodily processes involving testosterone and androgen, and may thus be useful for cancer patients who have received radiation therapy.
A substance found in chicken and certain other polypore mushrooms increases sensitivity to insulin and also improves several other processes related to diabetes, including reducing blood sugar in animals. The substance has promise as a possible treatment for type II diabetes and related problems, such as obesity.
There are other intriguing possibilities, too. The mushroom contains a substance believed to act as an anti-inflammatory, as well as melanin, which is both a free radical scavenger and may be involved in melatonin production and pineal gland heath. Chicken-of-the-woods inhibits the creation of cholesterol, possibly because of the presence of some as-yet unidentified substance that has a synergistic effect with lovatatin, a naturally-occurring, cholesterol-lowering drug. Research in mice suggests that a deficiency of a substance called CoQ9 causes a specific type of brain impairment; chicken is a source of CoQ9. It is interesting to note that almost all these studies involve substances extracted from the mushroom, not the mushroom itself, and that the research did not involve human subjects. Still, the mushroom has possibilities.