Chicken of the Woods
What food is high protein, low carb, low calorie, rich in antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, help prevent heart disease, and is completely free? Chicken of the Woods! While most mushrooms are small and are therefore used as an appetizer, side, or perhaps just to flavor a dish, Chicken of the Woods grow quite large, so you can feed the whole family. The record Chicken of the Woods weighed over 100 pounds! When you find this delicacy, you'll feel like you've hit the jackpot-- and you have.
Easy to identify and easy to work with, this versatile mushroom can be used in innumerable ways. It's notably mild flavor lends itself well to any recipe. To prepare it, gently remove the sticks, leaves and dirt clinging to it. You'll notice some of the inner parts are woodier-- dry these tough bits to use later in soups or tea. You can simply sauté slices in butter or olive oil until it starts to brown. How about chicken strips or chicken breast? Simply cut to appropriate size, bread and fry.  You can also shred it and use it like pulled pork. Make an immune-supporting powerhouse soup by adding diced Chicken of the Woods to a homemade bone broth soup. Unlike many other mushrooms, it can be frozen raw. Just clean, chop, and freeze.
Depending on variety and location, each cup of Chicken of the Woods provides between 11-21grams of protein. It provides ample potassium and some fiber as well.  Equally impressive are its medicinal applications: all strains of Chicken of the Woods demonstrate antimicrobial activity against a wide spectrum of bacteria, including staph infections. (Yes, even the methicillin-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.) It also contains several polyphenols, such as quercetin. Quercetin has an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effect, which may help allergy sufferers. Quercetin has been shown to inhibit a wide range of cancers such as prostate, cervical, lung, breast, and colon. It may also protect against heart disease and diabetes.
Chicken of the Woods favor growing on dead trees, particularly hard woods such as oak. They have a long fruiting season, from summer into fall. It doesn't really have any toxic look-alikes. The closest is perhaps the Jack-o-Lantern, because it is also orange, but you can easily distinguish between them by looking at the underside: The Jack-o-Lantern has gills and the Chicken of the Woods, being a polypore, has none. Once you find one, mark the spot because they will come back to the same spot for years as the host tree decays, and even after traces of it no longer remain visible. Cut it from the base, leaving the ground beneath undisturbed in order to protect the mycelium base. This is sustainability at its best.
We've been having some cooler weather this week, despite the early August date on our calendars. Take this opportunity for a pleasant walk in the woods and see if you can spot any edibles. Email me with your finds.

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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