In 1836, Swedish mycologist Elias Fries called the chanterelle “one of the most important and best edible mushrooms.” They are also incredibly nutritious – in addition to containing vitamin C and potassium, chanterelles are among the richest known sources of vitamin D. As ubiquitous as it is delicious, the golden chanterelle occurs all over the globe – from North America to Europe, Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, the meaty, funnel-shaped mushroom has a wild spirit that resists domestication, so if you’d like to savor its distinctive flavor, you’ll probably have to find it yourself – which is part of its wonderful charm! We recently stumbled across some chanterelles while hiking in Yellowwood State Forest just outside of Bloomington, Indiana. We picked a few, sautéed them, and ate them with our camp-cooked pasta, and liked them so much, we went back a couple of days later for more. Watch our video or hit the jump to find out how you can find your own chanterelles, which false species to avoid, and how to cook them up for a special treat you won’t soon forget.
STEP 1: WHEN AND WHERE CHANTERELLES GROW
Chanterelles typically occur in shaded drainage areas of the forest where there is a lot of leaf litter. Some people say they are easiest to find just after a good rain, but along the east coast of America, they can be found any time during summer and early fall, according to some sources, while on the west coast, it is easiest to find them between September and February.
STEP 2: HOW TO RECOGNIZE CHANTERELLES
Walk slowly to scour the forest floor – chanterelles are golden in color and occur in small clumps. Where there is one clump, you are likely to find more nearby. They have false gills, which means they are inseparable from the funnel-shaped cap.
STEP 3: HOW TO AVOID LOOKALIKE IMPOSTORS
There are two mushroom species that might be mistaken for chanterelles, namely the false chanterelle, which has true gills (that can be separated from the cap without destroying it) and will cause uncomfortable stomach trouble, and Jack o’lanterns, which are deadly poisonous. Once you study all three species carefully though, the chanterelles are quite distinctive and fairly easy to find. Just be sure to check and double check with a definitive guide like the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms before heading into the forest to forage.
STEP 4: HOW TO COLLECT CHANTERELLES
When harvesting, try not to disturb the mycelium in which the mushrooms grow and encourage spores to drop to the forest floor, as this will ensure that they can grow back the following year. Specialists disagree over whether you should cut or tear the mushrooms. We did the latter.
STEP 5: HOW TO COOK CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS
Wild golden chanterelles
Olive oil / butter
Gather up a handful of chanterelles and wash them thoroughly.
Once the crevices of the funnel-shaped caps and the stem are thoroughly cleaned, chop off the stems and cut the caps into chunks. We slivered ours, but experts recommend that you allow a greater surface area to absorb as much flavor as possible. Also, the tasty compounds in chanterelles are fat-soluble, which is why they are more delicious cooked in some kind of fat like butter or olive oil (at low temperatures) than eaten raw.
The rest is pleasantly easy. Simply add your fat to a small pan (depending on how many chanterelles you managed to find) and add salt, pepper and garlic to taste. We recommend serving over a bed of pasta, but there are a variety of other ways to eat them – limited only by your limitless imagination!
Video by Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat, narrated by Kim Kaufhold; photo of pasta dish; box of chanterelles, and plain chanterelles via Shutterstock; image of jack o’lantern and false chanterelle via Wikipedia