By Keith D. ~ Director of F&B (aka Forager Extraordinaire!)
Yes, the Chanterelle season is here, though it’s not been a good start. Depending upon weather, (temperature& moisture) the Chanterelle season usually starts around the 4th of July in Maryland. This year, I did find a few mushrooms sprouting the last week of June, though I was waiting for the usual large fruiting that usually occurs the beginning of July. Well, that never happened. As I have said, it’s all about the weather, and even though I have seen rain in the forecast, where I go and forage it just hasn’t rained much, and is really, really dry. Hence, just a few Chanterelle sprouting.
But I have to have patience. The best time to forage for mushrooms in my area is September and October, so I still have plenty of time. All I need now is it to rain and rain a lot. The good news is Mother Nature usually has a way of balancing itself, so since it’s been on the dry side the first half of the year, I eagerly anticipate it being wetter the second half. At least that’s what I’m praying for anyway.
So let’s talk Chanterelles, or (Cantharellus “cibarius”). It is one of my favorite mushrooms to eat, and one of the most abundant in my area. When conditions are right, I can pick 10 to 20 pounds of mushrooms in a few hours. Easy to spot with their golden yellow color, they love moisture, shade, and rich soil with organic matter. As with most mushrooms, I look for the trees first, then the mushrooms. And in my area, Beech is the tree they most love, though the forests I walk are really mixed hardwoods. So the silvery bark of the beech is really easy to spot. Many times they are growing right next to the roots, but always in the soil, never on wood. If it is on wood, then you most likely found a Jack-O’Latern of the genus Omphalotus, which is toxic and even glows in the dark. As with all foraging, you need to know what you are picking and be 100% confident in you identification of each and every mushroom.
For better understanding: http://benstarr.com/blog/how-to-find-chanterelles/
I think Chanterelles have a distinctive shape and gill ridges, but you need to learn what you are looking for. Generally yellow to yellow orange, but can have a pink/peachy variation. They always have white/light yellow white flesh. If it is not white, it is not a chanterelle. Generally they are about 2-4 inches wide, but can be larger than your hand if conditions allow. I strongly suggest you buy several mushroom books to study, buy nothing beats having someone to teach you. There are several clubs that you can join that will teach you just about everything you need to know.
For clubs: http://www.namyco.org/
Chanterelles are just wonderful to eat, and really shine when sautéed. They are great in vegetable dishes, to top meats or fish, and delicious with eggs. They has a delicate flavor, and I like to use them with cream sauces for pasta dishes. Unlike boletes, they does not dehydrate well, so I will take any extra mushrooms and lightly cook them with a few onions and cream before freezing in a small container for a winter day.
For an idea about foraging for Chanterelles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ylMMGEUFt0
A SMALL BATCH OF CHANTERELLES CLEANED AND READY TO BE SAUTEED. NOTICE THE DIFFERENT SHADES OF COLORS WITH SOME OF THEM.