Wild Gourmet Chanterelle Mushroom (Cantharellus cibarius)Oh Chanterelles, what aren’t thou, With your vibrant splash of color against mossy green, And your wonderful taste of sunshine in dark days of need? You are a wonder, a treat, a gourmet meat. A king of fungus, a wonder to eat.
The mighty chanterelle, what a gift to enjoy! One of the most common wild mushrooms, chanterelles are sold in grocery stores all over the world. They are favored by chefs for their delicate sweet and earthy mushroom flavor. They are the color of apricots, even when cooked, and have a slight apricot aroma and flavor to them. They are good in soups, like Chicken and Dumplings with Chanterelles, gravies, stir fries, and sauteed with butter and herbs. They are a diverse mushroom, and are typically very plentiful in the fall in the forests where they grow.
Last year, I saw chanterelles selling at Whole Foods Market for $49.99 per pound! It was a little late in the season, but that price was ridiculous. They are usually around $20 a pound, and worth every penny. But this year, I drove to the forests of Washington and picked 50 lbs in 5 hours of hiking around!
That is a much better deal and a hell of a lot more fun that buying them in the store. I recommend that you learn how to identify this mushroom so that you can go into your nearby forests and start picking your own as well. They are easy to find and very easy to identify. They do have a couple look a likes, however, so here’s what to look for:
How to Identify Chanterelle Mushrooms
- The cap is bright orange to yellow-orange in color, is smooth without scales or bumps
- The cap is usually slightly funnel shaped or a little concave with wavy edges when mature.
- The cap is domed shaped or nearly flat when young.
- Gills are more like ridged veins than loose gills, often with connecting veins between them.
- Gills run down the stalk, with no distinguishable line between the stalk and veins/ridges.
- Gills are the same color as the cap. The entire mushroom is basically the same color.
- The inside flesh is white, sometimes with a slight tinge of yellow.
- Almost never have insect larvae in them
- There is never a ring, veil, or volva with chanterelles
- They have a faintly fruity smell, slightly like apricots
- Grow on the ground, never of trees, stumps, or dead wood, but will often grow under or right next to them.
- Grow under conifers and oaks in the Fall. They often grow in patches, so if you find one, look around and you’ll likely find 20 more. They especially seem to love fir trees.
- Grow from southern Alaska down to California in the Western US, from Maine to the Gulf Coastal states in Eastern US, and throughout Northern Europe and Northern Asia.
Edibility of Chanterelle Mushrooms
Records of eating chanterelles date back to the 1500s, but became more widespread with the French power in the 1700s. They are now eaten all over the world. Chefs classify chanterelles in the same gourmet category as morels, porcinis, and truffles. They really are quite delicious. The majority of their flavor-compounds are fat-soluble, which is why their preferred method of cooking is sauteing in butter, oil, or cream. But they also have smaller amounts of water- and alcohol-soluble flavorings, making them good to use soups (like Chicken and Dumplings with Chanterelles), gravies, and in wine-based sauces.
Chanterelles are one of the richest sources of vitamin D known on the planet! They look and act like little bits of sunshine. They also have high amounts of potassium and vitamin C.
How to Preserve Chanterelle Mushrooms
The best way to preserve your chanterelle bounty is to saute them in oil or butter for a couple minutes and then freeze them. They will keep well frozen for a few months, but at about 5-6 months the frozen chanterelles start to develop a strong bitter flavor. Sauteing them first helps delay this bitter transformation, but there is no stopping it in the long run.
You can also dehydrate them, and many people do. But dehydrated chanterelles do not rehydrate well. Re-hydrated chanterelles have a very chewy texture, which really isn’t pleasant, but their aroma and flavor remains well. So dehydrated chanterelles are best suited for grinding up into mushroom powder. The powder can then be used for adding to gravies and sauces, a flavor enhancer in soups, mixed in with ground burger for a tasty mushroom kick, or even used as a dry rub with other spices and seasonings. The golden color of chanterelle powder gives everything a beautiful glow.
The Bald Gourmet loves mushroom hunting. Gathering delicious gourmet treats in the woods, like Chanterelle Mushrooms, is wonderful and makes for some tasty treats back home in the kitchen.