Posted by Dyson Forbes on 13th Apr 2017
Chanterelles(Cantharellus cibarius, Cantharellus enelensis and Cantharellus fomosus)
Golden Chanterelles are one of the most popular and prolific wild mushrooms, growing all across Europe (cibarius) and North America (fomosus, elenensis, phasmatis, appalachiensis, lateritius and more). Amazingly there are over 40 different varieties to be found across North America. While it can be difficult to distinguish between types, in general chanterelles are very easy to identify and super easy to cook, better yet they can act as a gateway to foraging other mushrooms.
Their mild, nutty, almost apricot-like flavour makes them really versatile in the kitchen. Many folks say they are best prepared simply: sautéed in butter or used in cream sauces, and served with chicken or egg dishes. Use in dishes where they do not have to compete with strong flavours.
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
Chanterelles have “false” gills or forked ridges that extend from the stem across the underside of the cap, still developing mushrooms may also have vein like ridges that squiggle between the main ridges and one common variety, Cantharellus lateritius (the smooth chanterelle) often is totally absent of ridges. Both the cap and the ridges are usually a yellowy orange, but they can also be slightly pink, white and buff. When you cut into one, the flesh will usually be mostly white on the inside, though the cut part will slowly stain over and become the same colour as the exterior. The flesh of a chanterelle will rip apart like string cheese and appear almost fibrous. There are a variety of chanterelle species, and several grow in multiple regions. Some chanterelles such as the Blue chanterelle (Polyozellus) are actually different species, as are the hollow-stemmed Yellow foot chanterelles (Craterellus) appear later in the season.
Chanterelle cinnabarinus (bright orange) and Cantharellus elenensis (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 that they grow near, especially Pine, Douglas fir and Hemlock spruce. There are chanterelle species that grow with oaks beech maple and other trees as well.
Cantharellus persicinus (pink) - Photo by Dyson Forbes
Picking chanterelles is really easy as once you can spot them they stand out among other mushrooms. However while they are easy to tell apart from other mushrooms there are a few similar looking mushrooms. One common lookalike is the poisonous Jack O’Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus illudens), 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 the 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. Other look a like mushrooms include woolly chanterelle (Turbinellus floccosus) formerly known as Gomphus.
Chanterelles get shipped across the country and world in baskets like these - Photo by Forbes Wild Foods
The chanterelle business is a multi-hundred million 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.
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 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.
Chanterelles at market - Photo by Seth Goering
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. Picking chanterelles will not harm the larger organism hidden under the soil. When harvesting, the best practice is to pluck from the ground then trim off the stem, this will leave your harvest cleaner than just plucking from the ground and by tossing the butt ends of the chanterelles back around where they grew you are helping future growth. Massive studies have looked at cutting vs. plucking chanterelles and have found there is no significant difference in future growth.
Often when picking Chanterelles you will find some gnarly looking deformed or mutant specimens, one common deformation is called rosecomb deformation, identifiable by a twisting of the cap and or ridges protruding from the top of the mushroom cap. While freaky looking, rosecomb chanterelles are still fine to eat.
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 a different product when dried, slightly milder and more dense, and are better suited use in soups, as a rub or, in sauces and gravies and should not be used like a fresh ones would be, try using in rubs, sauces stuffings and infused in foods.