KFC just announced that they are going to start offering “vegetarian fried chicken” as part of a healthy new menu later this year. What will it be made of? Imitation poultry has a long and questionable history. Perhaps they’ll take inspiration from the American vegan invention of traditional thanksgiving “tofurkey” and create to…fick..en? Maybe not. A substance known as “seitan”, made from wheat gluten, is a frequent chicken substitute. Hip London eatery “Temple of Seitan” recently opened London’s first all-vegan chicken shop, which sounds pretty on brand for KFC. Or what about Quorn? This shady blend of microbes and egg whites is often sold as “chicken-style pieces”. Its microbial biomass, branded as a “tiny relative of the mushroom”, could just as accurately be described as “germs”. So whether it’s tofu’s curdled beans, wheat’s processed gluten or Fusarium venenatum’s egg-bonded fungal filaments, veggie chicken substitutes generally require heavy processing to get them into a recognisably meaty form. Or do they? We, The Foragers at The Verulam Arms are currently foraging and cooking an amazingly realistic, totally organic, natural and unprocessed chicken substitute from high up in local oak trees.
Yup – we’re already serving vegetarian, indeed vegan, chicken on the menu at our wild food pub The Verulam Arms. It’s a mushroom called Chicken of the Woods – a lurid yellow fungus that grows on broad leafed trees. And begins to appear after the first thunderstorm in May. It has a fantastic tender chickeny texture, even breaking into muscle fibres when you tear it. And it cooks like chicken too: it browns beautifully on the outside like grilled meat does. And the taste. The wonderful taste. You have to try it to believe it. AND it has all these wonderful qualities without any industrial processing at all. No whipping, curdling, skimming or pressing. It bursts from the tree like a ready-to-roast chicken breast!
Here’s a video of us roasting up a mock-chicken to prove how chicken-like the mushroom can be. Maybe KFC should give our favourite tree mushroom a try. We’d be glad to forage some for them.
And as a Kentucky fried bonus, here’s an even more relevant video we made last year about how to hack a KFC zinger by grabbing a handful of even zingier wild herbs from the hedgerow and stuffing it inside your burger. We’re always looking for ways to get more wild into our mouths!
To learn more about the amazing flavours and foods that grow in the wild, why not join us on one of our foraging walks, workshops or team away days?