Amazingly enough, Hen of the Woods does not necessarily have to grow in the woods. I have found it in lawns, too. Many friends call me when they find an odd mushroom or fungus growing in their yards, and hardly anything competes with the oddness of the one that I collected this week. I found a maitake on a neighbor’s front yard several years ago, but when I knocked on her door to ask permission to take it, she wasn’t home. When I returned to try again that night, it was gone—in her garden trash bin, she said. I fished it out and it fed me for the winter, it was so large. Now she calls me when it returns.
Hen of the Woods, also known as a Maitake, is highly prized as a generous edible and medicinal mushroom, especially in Japan, where it can grow to 50 pounds. It is sold online and not cheap. My mushroom was very young and difficult to clean and weighed only 3 pounds, but it was still a whole lot of mushroom.
Mushroom hunting this year hasn’t been too successful for me, as my usual territory has been discovered by someone who takes everything and doesn’t even leave enough for spores. My habit has always been to take only what I need and leave plenty for next time. Sigh. I haven’t found a new place yet that can accommodate my bicycle, as my feet won’t walk miles any more. This is especially sad as I am working on my mushroom book this year. But I’ve kept logs for fifteen years now, so there is no dearth of material.
This especially cool photo was taken by my adventurous son Dylan Kuhn, also known as CyberHobo, who is visiting with his equally adventurous wife, Ann. Click on it to enlarge it.