Tag Archives: Hemlock

Chanterelles: Where to find them, how to cook them

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 _DSC3308exception 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 collageChanterelle (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 Chanterelle look-alikesthe 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

Pre-Season Scouting: Finding key mushroom spots

With the temperatures slowly warming up and the snow finally starting to melt, it can only mean that mushroom picking season is just around the corner! Much like athletes that train for their upcoming sport seasons, mushroom foragers can get a head start by reviewing notes from last year’s mushroom hunts, scouting for probable picking spots, locating (or supplementing) their gear and getting in shape in anticipation of the long, forthcoming forest hikes.

Although we still have knee-deep snow on the ground here in the Northeast, this does not prevent die-hard mushroom hunters from getting ready for the imminent picking season.  In fact, the open, snow-covered trails allow for great tree identification, helpful for locating likely mushroom spots that will save scavenging time once the first fungi appear.  This is a great time of year to strap on snow shoes, back country skis or winter hiking gear, get a good workout while recording important information that will lead to a successful foraging season. The following are some trees to scout for where certain mushroom varieties are likely to be found.

Morels are the first edible mushrooms to appear in most areas, emerging sometime in May based on geographic location and elevation.  Here in New England we typically find Morels during the second week of May though they could come up earlier or later depending on environmental factors such as temperature and precipitation.  Once Morels have started to pop up, their lifespan is approximately two weeks and their season lasts roughly a month based on the amount of moisture their habitat receives.

Morel
Morels

Common or Yellow Morels (Morchella esculenta) are usually found in the Eastern part of the country growing around the base of living White or Green Ash, dead or dying American Elms, and can also be found in older, unattended apple orchards.  (Morels should not be picked in active orchards as pesticides may have been used and seeped into the ground.)  Morels have a mycorrhizal relationship with these trees, and thus it can be expected to find them popping up within an 8 foot radius.  Morel hunters typically go from Ash to Ash to pick their morels and don’t bother searching around the base of any other trees.

White Ash trees are easy to spot as they look similar to the morel caps.  The trunk is dark gray, darker than most trees and is deeply furrowed with noticeable diamond-shaped ridges.  Additionally, they have opposite branching, meaning that the limbs grow directly across from each other making them easy to identify since only a few species grow in this manner.

Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), King Bolete (Boletus edulis) and Lobster Mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) come up later in the summer and early fall and are usually found near conifers such as Hemlocks and Douglas Firs. These evergreen trees are usually surrounded by mature hardwood trees that provide some shade which is important to their subsistence.  They have soft, flattened needles with a distinctive white line on the underside.

Maitake/Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) can usually be found at the base of mature oak trees in late summer and fall.  These majestic trees are simply beautiful featuring enormous trunks that are certain to have this fungi growing around them.  Look for large Oaks (Red Oaks in particular) that have dying branches in established forests, open areas, as well as parks and open fields.  The bark is grey with deep grooves and ridges but it’s the girth of the mature tree that will be a key feature.  The good news is that once you have found Maitake mushrooms growing at the base of a tree, it will usually appear in the same spot the following year.

So get outside, hike around, observe your surroundings and identify some of these trees.  Take descriptive notes as to your location, particular tree stands and how you got there.  Not only are you getting good exercise and adding to your fungi knowledge, but the anticipation of the upcoming mushroom season will get you excited and put you in a great mood!

Ash Hemlock Oak_edited-1