Country diary: chicken-of-the-woods is tasty – and not just to us

Woodland fungi are a furtive bunch, living mostly unseen under the soil or inside other organisms, digesting whatever their creeping threads can find: nature’s recyclers. Their appearances are often fleeting, limited to a dusting of rust spores on the underside of a yellowing leaf or overnight eruptions of toadstools in autumn. But bracket fungi are a class apart: big, durable and sometimes a little sinister, and none more so than chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus.

On a humid, windless, overcast evening, in fading light, an air of lassitude had settled over this ancient woodland. No birdsong and few flowers now that the spring flora had withered away under a tangle of brambles, grasses and ferns. But we could see the sulphur-yellow bracket fungi, at head height on a decrepit, dying oak, from a hundred yards away, arranged like closely spaced shelves on either side of the trunk. As dusk closed in around us, they seemed to glow.

Chicken of the woods bracket fungus digests the dead heartwood of oaks but leaves live sapwood intact, creating hollow trees

Gastronomes relish chicken of the woods as a delicacy, comparable in texture to well-cooked chicken breast, with a rich fungal aroma. So do insects: these specimens would undoubtedly be full of maggots. The dinner-plate-sized brackets were past their best and would surely be chewy and tough, having lost the plump fleshiness of youth. Their webs of fungal hyphae were slowly hollowing out the oak’s trunk, turning it into something with the texture of a crumbly biscuit.

I picked up a fallen bracket and took one home, to see what might hatch out. Nothing for four days, but on the fifth a blizzard of minute flies swirled out when I lifted the lid of the container. Then, on the 10th day, something special.

A cork moth, Nemapogon cloacella, just 5mm long, scuttling across the surface of the decaying fungus. At first it seemed just another dull, brown micro-moth, but a magnifying glass revealed fringed, upswept wings clothed in scales of mottled brown, white and gold; an insect of exquisite beauty.

The larvae of the cork moth, Nemapogon cloacella, feed on bracket fungi

Heartwood of oak, created by a sapling’s sunlit leaves perhaps two centuries ago, broken down, molecule by molecule, reconstituted into fungal tissue, then reincarnated yet again as a tiny jewel of an insect.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Enter Your Information Below To Receive Free Trading Ideas, Latest News, And Articles.

Please Enter Your Email Address:




Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us and our affiliates. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Update on afterhours trading on indices

Posted by Dafni Serdari | 18/03/2020 16:05Temporary changes to after-hours trading on indices The unprecedented volatility due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused decreased...

The future is fungal: why the ‘megascience’ of mycology is on the rise

As a boy, Merlin Sheldrake really loved the autumn. In the garden of his parents' house - he grew up a few moments from...

Numbers of critically endangered orange-bellied parrot soar from low 20s to more than 100

There has been little good to say about the recent history of the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. Numbers of the small migratory bird, which...

Households to be paid for daytime green electricity use during lockdown

Thousands of British homes will be paid to use electricity during the day for the first time, as wind and solar projects produce a...

FXTM trading schedule for US Thanksgiving Day 2020

Please note that in observance of the upcoming US Thanksgiving Day holiday from November 26-27 2020, there will be temporary changes to FXTM's trading...