Posted by Dyson Forbes on March 24, 2017
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius and Cantharellus fomosus)
Golden Chanterelles are one of the most popular and prolific wild mushrooms, growing all across Europe (cibarius) and North America (fomosus). While there is over 40 different varieties across North America, they are very easy to identify and easy to cook, they can act as a gateway to foraging other mushrooms and species. Their mild, nutty, almost apricot-like flavour makes them really versatile. Many of their fans say they are best prepared simply: sautéed in butter or used in cream sauces, and served with chicken or egg dishes.
Basket of Chanterelle buttons - Photo by Dyson Forbes
Chanterelles start off as small buttons poking out of the ground in mid July and are abundant from September to as late as January in warm zones. They are easy to identify by their wavy funnel shape, and their colour, which ranges from near white to a super-bright orange. While age, growing conditions, and location can influence how chanterelles look, there are a number of unique identifiers that make them easy to spot.
Chanterelles of various sizes and shapes - Photo by Dyson Forbes
They have “false” gills or forked ridges that extend from the stem across the underside of the cap. Both the cap and the ridges are usually a yellowy orange, but they can also be slightly pink. When you cut into one, the flesh will be mostly white on the inside, though the cut part will slowly stain over and become the same colour as the exterior. There are a variety of chanterelle species, and several grow in multiple regions. Blue chanterelles are actually another species, and the hollow-stemmed yellowfoot chanterelles appear later in the season.
Chanterelle pericinus (bright orange) and Cantharellus cibarius (golden) - Photo by Dyson Forbes
Chanterelles remain a wild mushroom because they are not easily cultivated. They are a mycorrhizal mushroom, meaning that they have a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow near, especially Douglas fir and Hemlock spruce. There are chanterelle species that grow with oaks and other trees as well.
A common lookalike is the poisonous Jack O’Lantern mushroom, which has non-forking gills, a solid orange colour when cut, and always grows in clumps. It can also faintly glow in the dark, which is a good reason never to eat it. Another lookalike is the Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, or False chanterelle which is not a choice edible, although some people really enjoy them. It’s flesh is softer than a chanterelle’s and it has thin gills. Both lookalikes are easy to differentiate.
Chanterelles get shipped across the country and world in baskets like these - Photo by Forbes Wild Foods
The chanterelle business is a multi-billion dollar, progressive, non-timber forest product enterprise, far more profitable in the long term than the logging industry that it bumps elbows with and competes with for forest resources. Every year the harvest gives rural communities an economic boost. It is largely a sustainable industry too, as chanterelles are the fruiting body of a bigger organism. Harvesting them can be likened to picking apples: picking the fruit doesn't harm the tree. So when you see them cut them at the base of their stems or pluck them with a slight twisting motion and eat them with a clear conscience. Plucking them will not damage their mycelium, but cutting will give you a cleaner harvest.
Chanterelle, apple, and chestnut stuffing with thyme, garlic, and onion - Photo by Dyson Forbes
While the golden variety is the most popular chanterelle, there is a small market for Yellowfoot or Winter chanterelles and Blue chanterelles, which are commercially harvested in places such as Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands).
Blue Chanterelles or Polyozellus multiplex can look and feel a bit like rubber and has a mild but lovely flavour - Photo by Dyson Forbes
Yellowfoot or winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis are a different thing altogether, hollow stems and later in the season.
Chanterelle pericinus - Photo by Dyson Forbes
Chanterelles at market - Photo by Seth Goering
Chanterelles remain a wild mushrooms because they are not easily cultivated. They are a mycorrhizal mushroom, meaning that they have a symbiotic relationship with the trees that grow around them often but not limited to douglas fir and hemlock spruce. Like an apple from an apple tree, a Chanterelle is only the fruit of a much larger organism so pick freely and enjoy the bounty you find.
You can order seasonal fresh and dried wild Canadian chanterelles directly through us online, at markets, or taste some on a plate nearby. We supply many restaurants with seasonal wild mushrooms
Unlike other dried wild mushrooms that can be used much the same way fresh, Chanterelles become slightly milder as they dry and more dense, and are better suited use in soups, as a rub or, in sauces and gravies.