Following a discouraging morel season earlier this spring, many of us in the Northeast left our disappointment behind looking optimistically towards the bountiful chanterelle season ahead. Although Vermont had one of the rainiest Junes on record forcing many to hold outdoor events indoors, mycophiles relished at the fact that the inclement weather would result in a moist forest floor, perfect for fungi growth. We were not disappointed with the outcome!
We found our first, small chanterelles early in July and with the exception of one scorching week last month we have found these beauties in all of our foraging spots. Some were small and tight, others were gorgeous specimen bursting with flavor and exuding their distinct apricot aroma.
Chanterelles are revered by foodies worldwide for their delicate chewy texture, bright yellow/orange hues and mild flavor. Most people refer to the Golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) when describing this mushroom though there are at least eighteen varieties in a wide range of colors. These include the Red Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus), the White Chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus), the Yellow-footed Chanterelle (Cantharellus xanthopus) and the Blue Chanterelle (Polyozellus multiplex), the latter found primarily in the Rocky Mountains. Other choice mushrooms in the chanterelle family include the evasive Pig’s Ear Gomphus (Gomphus clavatus) and the Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax), a favorite of ours.
Chanterelles prefer the rich, acidic soil of a mature forest where oak, pine, spruce, birch, poplar and beech are predominant. They tend to be found near mossy streams, on the edge of the woods, near deep glacial deposits and along well-worn forest paths or old dirt roads. They can be found growing on their own or in groups, their bright yellow color popping out from the ground making them fairly easy to spot. They vary in size from a small, convex shape that, upon maturing, evolves into a large curving, funnel-like form.
There are two poisonous mushrooms that are often confused with the prized chanterelle. These are the False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) found primarily under conifers that can cause hallucinations and the Jack O’ Lantern (Omphalotus illudens) that grow in clusters either on dead stumps, buried roots or at the base of hardwood trees, usually oak. Jack O’ Lantern can cause severe gastrointestinal ailments.
Aside from the aforementioned toxic look-alikes, chanterelles are a real culinary delicacy that are outstanding sautéed on their own or paired with eggs, nuts, fish and various meats. They are fantastic pan-fried then added to a cream sauce or incorporated into an omelet, tart or risotto. Because chanterelles release a lot of moisture when heated, it is important to let the fluids evaporate before adding any other ingredients. They should not be left to “stew” in their liquids since this will make them tough and leathery. Fresh chanterelles will keep up to a week on a wire rack in the refrigerator and can be air frozen whole then transferred to a heavy duty resealable bag and kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Recipe: Breakfast Chanterelles