Chanterelle mushrooms are a relatively new mushroom to me. Although I grew up picking mushrooms and could accurately ID several kinds by the age of 5, I only discovered chanterelles when I moved to the USA. The other day I went on a pretty unsuccessful mushroom hunt and they were the only mushroom I found. To add to my disappointment, they were Cantharellus cinnabarinus, which are tiny. Once I fried them up with some garlic and onions I forgot that I was ever upset about my haul.
How to Identify Chanterelle Mushrooms
Chanterelles are easy to identify because of their two key features. They are either yellow or a bright orange in color. They also have a wavy funnel shape that makes them look unlike any other mushroom. I had only seen them online when I came across what has become my go-to spot for chanterelle mushrooms. It was immediately obvious what I had discovered. Although I made sure to consult with experts before eating them.
I guess this is a great time for my disclaimer: picking and eating wild mushrooms is risky and can kill you – no joke. Do not eat something based on a few photos and a YouTube video. Consult with people who know what they are doing, not just strangers on the internet. I recommend that you find a local mycological society that actually goes foraging together because they will teach you more than any handbook. When I first moved to the USA, it was the first thing I did because mushrooms are not the same across the globe. It was a good thing I did because my favorite mushroom, the bolete, has toxic varieties growing here that don’t exist in Europe.
Where and When to Find Them
Chanterelle mushrooms grow abundantly during rainy summers. They often grow by creeks and on hills. The Chanterelle season in the US normally begins in early June in the southern areas along the Gulf coast. The best time to search begins 2-3 days after a heavy rainfall in hot, humid weather, and continuing for 2-3 weeks after that rain, especially if it keeps raining.
“Look for older trees and a solid forest canopy. They’re most commonly found around maple, beech, poplar, birch and oak trees. In some areas, they’re associated with pine and fir trees, so it doesn’t have to be hardwood.”Practical Self Reliance
If you haven’t already, PLEASE watch the video above. Also, if you’re into learning more about mushrooms, subscribe to Learn Your Land. This guy is very knowledgeable, tells you everything you need to know and his delivery is amazing. He has a lot of great videos about a variety of mushrooms and tips on how to become a skilled forager.
A toxic lookalike of the chanterelle mushroom is the jack o’lantern. Jack o’lanterns grow on dead trees, sometimes from dead wood that’s underground. They are larger than chanterelles when they get to a certain age and they grow in clusters. So, similarly to chicken of the woods, a whole bunch will be connected at the base.
Their gills are really close together and typically on on the cap, although they sometimes run a little down the stem. They also have a pale cream spore print. If you cut a jack o’lantern down the middle, it will also likely be the same bright orange as it is on the outside. Their gills also happen to glow in the dark!
Yes, that does sound a little confusing and there is a LOT of information. Which is why I suggest that you refer to the video because he goes through each type of mushroom individually and THEN compares the differences. The good-ish news is that even if you eat a jack o’lantern mushroom, you won’t die. You’ll just get stuck on the toilet with stomach problems. No, I don’t advise you to carelessly eat any and all orange mushrooms you find in the forest just because they won’t necessarily kill you.
Chanterelle Mushrooms vs False Chanterelles
Wait, there are toxic jack o’lanterns AND false chanterelles? The bad news is yes, there are. The good news is, false chanterelles are not toxic! They just don’t taste good. At all. Once again, I’ll let the video do all the talking. From my experience, it really is easier when you’re seeing and hearing all the differences side by side to actually understand how to ID them.
Chanterelle Mushroom Recipes
The most popular way to prepare chanterelle mushrooms is with eggs. Personally I love to eat them on their own to get the full, pure experience of their flavor. If you’re unlucky like me and only find the tiny variety, you may consider freezing them in a jar until you have enough to cook a substantial meal with. You can find various great recipes here. However, make sure to check out the chanterelle mushroom omelette in particular!
Mushroom season is here! Wild mushrooms are delicious and nutritious. Foraging is also a great way to connect with the natural world around you. I recommend joining a mycological society and getting some literature on the subject. If you want to enjoy mushrooms without the risk of eating something toxic, I recommend buying a grow kit like this one. Picking wild mushrooms is a lot of fun and once you start, you’ll be a forager for life. If you need inspiring recipes, check out this book.