I ran home between court and work the other day to let the dogs out. While we were on a quick walk around the block Snuffy pointed at a pile of leaves in the easement, which turned out to be a giant mushroom. I tired to give him lots of treats so maybe he will find me another one, but it turned out neither he or Mazy even like the mushroom when I cooked it! Ironically, I had gone out looking for a hen of the forest several times without success before Snuffy found this one in my own easement. Hen of the Wood is perennial and often reappears in the same place year after year. Once I saw it I realized there was one there a few years ago (before I knew about mushrooms) and without knowing any better I just let got rid of it! Like us, Hen of the forest gets darker as exposed to more light. As you can see, this one was in a very bright spot! Several subsequent walks have proven fruitless, which leads me to believe my house may be the only one in the neighborhood to host the fungus. It fruits almost exclusively at the base of distressed oak trees, although occasionally other hardwoods like maples. John joked that this tress must be trying to get back in my good graces after I threatened to innoculate it last year.

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Sorry for the blurry photo, for once it was not my phones fault it was sheer excitement. This guy weighed in at 6 lbs! I dehydrated half of it, and made several meals with the rest. You can also sautee and freeze hen of the forest for a short period, but I love using my dehydrated and research indicated dehydrating might yield better results, particularly if it is rehydrated using stock rather than water. For those of you thinking I should have left some, I actually recently learned that you can’t over harvest mushrooms. It doesn’t tax the organism to have the fruit harvested.

Homemade basil with hen of the woods (maitake) on the side. This is the first occasion I found worth using some of the fancy salt my brother brought me from Salzburg.

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Hen of the woods sandwich with parmesan.

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I tried this soup from this fabulous blog but regrettably did not love it. This mushroom is just best sauteed in butter and oil with a bit of salt, and it is the second best mushroom I have ever had. My all time favorite is Lion’s Mane.

Maitake (the japanese word for hen of the forest) is not only a choice edible but highly valued as a medicinal mushroom. Regrettably, mushroom season is almost over in Michigan without me finding the bright orange chicken of the woods yet, but there is one winter mushroom that I am after: Chaga. A Chaga is a big woody mushroom that grows primarily on birch high up, and even in the winter. It is not an edible but rather a potent medicinal mushroom when made into a tincture. Happy hunting!

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