New York

Chicken Mushrooms: Foods You Can Forage For in NYC

According to “Wildman” Steve Brill, an expert ecologist and SideTour host, there’s plenty of free food in New York City, without having to fight crowds to snag handout samples. We’ve been counting down his top 10 foods to forage for in city parks. Chicken mushrooms are the second item on his list.

Chicken mushrooms

Mature chicken mushroom 

How to find it If there’s one mushroom to seek for your first foraging foray, this is it. The chicken mushroom is easy to recognize and (thankfully) has no poisonous look-alikes. It has pores on its underside, not the blade-like gills of commercial mushrooms, and it always grows on living or dead trees, logs or stumps, and never in the grass or on bare ground. When mature, it consists of flat, fan-shaped, overlapping caps 2 to 12 inches across and bright orange to salmon in color. It’s common and widespread, has a long season and can grow to be huge—Steve once found 50pounds covering a log in a NYC park.

How to eat it Because the white, light yellow or pale salmon flesh looks and tastes like chicken meat, you can use it in many dishes in place of poultry. Choose mushrooms that are young and soft—once they’ve turned dry and crumbly, they’re too old to eat. Unless your mushroom is so young and tender that it almost drips with juice, it’s better to cook it in moist dishes—like soups, stews or in rice—than to sauté it in oil.

Very young chicken mushroom

Hungry for more? While you’re on the hunt, take a look for yellow wood sorrel, and check back as we showcase Steve’s top 10 wild edibles. Or sign up for Steve’s SideTour experience. He’s also behind the definitive smartphone app for foraging: Wild Edibles (for iOS and Android).

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