"Hen of the Woods", Grifolas, Maitake Question
Today, walking the dog I stumbled upon what I believe to be a "Hen of the Woods" mushroom.
I left it where it was, returned home intending to investigate, confirm and then (if appropriate) go back to retrieve it but I got sidetracked, forgot and it's now dark. I currently don't have details (used by keyed guide) regarding pores or gills, etc. nor do I have a photograph at this time. I plan to return tomorrow and post photos. In the meantime, my questions are:
- In the way that puffballs could be confused with immature Amanita mushrooms, are there any similar but unsafe mushrooms with which "Hen of the Woods" could be mistaken? It seems most others (polypore species) I know of that even remotely resemble them are also edible.
- Is "Hen of the Woods" ever, even when at its prime, solid colored? Is it not always varied colored? (I believe some folks might be confusing "Hen of the Woods" with "Chicken of the Woods".)
- With those with which I'm most familiar (morels, puffball), there's a "window of opportunity" for gathering but I understand that some folks that find "Hens of the Woods" leave them to grow larger, coming back a week or whatever later. How large do they get and how does one tell when it's grown all it will?
- After that point, for how long are they good? Other than obvious blackening, rot, worm/bug eaten, etc how can one tell if it's too late? If past ideal harvesting time, is it merely a matter of a slightly different or stronger flavour (as with grocery store varieties) or can they become inedible or unsafe?
(Maybe I'll go back tonight for some flash photos because I'm looking forward to including them in tomorrow's breakfast!)
Thanks for any help!