Hen of the Woods is a mushroom that can grow very big. Have you ever seen one before? If you have an imagination they look like a hen sitting down. Another reason they are called Hen of the Woods is because they taste like a chicken breast, the same texture too. These are some amazing mushrooms! They do not have any poisonous look-a-likes so they are safe to eat. There are some people that do have sensitivities though so it's always best when eating wild mushrooms to try the smallest of bites first and wait a couple days to make sure you're not sensitive. If you've never seen a Hen of the Woods before and you live in an area that has mushrooms start paying close attention during Fall when you walk through the woods. They grow at the base of hardwood trees like Oaks and Maples.
We are so lucky to have a giant oak tree right in our yard to enjoy. We've been able to harvest quite a few HUGE Hen of the Woods from it's base.
I'm definitely not a mushroom expert but I've learned a few things from my experience harvesting them. Hen of the Woods have lots of folds which not only make the mushroom beautiful but can trap dirt and provide great hiding places for critters.
When I harvest Hen of the Woods I cut just above the base making sure to leave a portion of the base behind. I also cut a little at a time and lift up the mushroom making sure there's nothing underneath. The first mushroom I harvested I just sliced it all the way through not really observing anything and I cut a salamander in half. That was disturbing. So take my word for it and harvest your mushrooms cutting a little at a time.
Taking the time to harvest and clean your mushrooms will provide you with a huge reward. I do find a big difference in flavor and texture when I eat mushrooms that have been washed. So I don't recommend washing mushrooms. As long as you provide some time for the critters to evacuate, gently wipe them with a damp towel, then cook them, they will be perfectly safe and good to eat.
Trust me if you ever get the chance to harvest your own wild mushrooms, do it! Don't be afraid, at least you have control over how clean you get them. You can only imagine what is missed when mushrooms are quickly being process and canned. We've made so many delicious recipes with these mushrooms. I can't wait to share some of them with you!