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Laetiporus is a genus of edible polypores growing throughout much of the world. Also known as the sulfur shelf, chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, and the chicken fungus (not to be confused with the hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa)). It is, as one might expect, an edible mushroom with a taste quite similar to lemony chicken. Individual "shelves" range from 2-10 inches across. These shelves are made up of many tiny tubular filaments (hyphae). The mushroom grows in large brackets - some have been found that weigh over 100 pounds (45 kg). It is most commonly found on wounds of trees, mostly oak, though it is also frequently found on yew, cherry wood, sweet chestnut, and willow. Though it does grow on living trees, sulphur shelf is not a parasite, though it may cause decay.
Young mushrooms are characterized by a moist, rubbery, sulphur-yellow body with bright orange tips. Older mushrooms become pale and brittle, pungent, and are often dotted with termite holes. Similar species include Laetiporus gilbertsonii (fluorescent pink, more amorphous) and L. coniferica (common in the western United States, especially on red fir trees). Both share the same edibility traits. The sulphur shelf mushroom is, to stretch the term, a perennial - it comes back year after year. From late spring to early autumn, the sulphur shelf thrives, making it a boon to mushroom hunters and a bane to those concerned about the health of their trees. Rarely, however, does the fungus prove fatal to its host, though it may cause its host tree to decay to the point where wind or hail could knock it down.
The mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat. It can also be used as a substitute for chicken in a vegetarian diet. Additionally, it can be frozen for long periods of time and retain its edibility. In certain parts of Germany and North America, it is even considered a delicacy.
However, a small percentage of people can have an allergic reaction when ingesting it. To quote Michael Beug " causes mild reactions in some, for example, swollen lips" or in rare cases " nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation." This is believed to be due to a number of factors that range from very bad allergies to the mushroom's protein, to toxins absorbed by the mushroom from the wood it grows on (for example, Eucalyptus or Cedar), to simply eating specimens that have decayed past their prime. As such, many field guides request that those who eat Laetiporus exercise caution by only eating fresh, young brackets and begin with small quantities to see how well it sits in their stomach.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Laetiporus". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|