Range: This mushroom is found at the base of trees, especially oak trees in China, Japan, and northeastern North America. It has been reported as far west as Idaho.
Harvest Season: Late summer to early autumn after rain. This is a perennial mushroom that often grows in the same place year after year, but only for very short lifespans.
Identifying Characteristics: This tuber-like mushroom grows in a large clump that some describe as coral-like. The caps are greyish-brown that are curled or spoon-shaped. The mushroom can grow up to 100 pounds in Japan, but is often much smaller. Stipes (stalks) are white and branching. They become quite tough as the mushroom ages.
Dangerous Lookalikes: There are no toxic lookalikes to the Hen of the Woods, but it may be confused with Meripilus giganteus, which is also edible. M. giganteus is thicker and stains black along the edges.
Preparation: Harvest with a knife – cutting this mushroom requires a large one. Harvest when the mushroom is young for best flavor and texture. This mushroom is common in Japanese cuisine and is tasty sauteed in butter or olive oil, or as part of many dishes