Hunting and Harvesting Chanterelle Mushrooms
Intro: Wild Chanterelles are a gourmet delicacy that grows
throughout the world in various delicious
varieties. Learning to identify edible wild mushrooms opens doors to a world of flavors unobtainable
in any fancy restaurant. This article features the Pacific Golden Chanterelle that is found throughout
the Pacific Norwest Coastal Range of North America. One taste of this wild edible will have you
looking forward each year to the first heavy rains. You can order these mushroom at some high-end
restaurants but when you begin to harvest these yourself you will begin to see how much better they
taste when you eat them the same day you harvested them. The best part of wild mushroom hunting is
that it requires no effort on your part to plant seeds, water, weed, ect.. All you have to do is wait
for the right conditions and go pick. Chanterelles are a good mushroom for beginners to learn to find
because of their relative abundance and easily distinguishable features.
(A large and clean Chanterelle.The checked rim means its old but still in very edible shape)
WARNING: Never eat any wild
food without being 100% positive that you know exactly what you are
consuming. This is especially important when hunting and eating wild mushrooms. Never rely on something
you read on the internet as your only source of information when it comes to something that could be
misidentified and cause sickness or death. Wherever edible mushrooms grow wild there will be someone
who is knowledgeable on where to go and what to look for. Find this person and bribe them to take you
out and show you exactly what you are looking for. Though varieties of Chanterelles grow all over the
world, they can appear differently in areas as little as 30 miles apart. The most important concept
to learn is which lookalike mushrooms grow in the area you will be hunting and how to tell the
difference from the mushrooms you can eat. Don’t feed wild mushrooms to anyone else until you are
absolutely positive of your identification skills. Fortunately Chanterelle mushrooms are relatively
easy to identify and don’t have too many lookalikes that could be mistaken from them. Once you learn
what Chanterelles look like you can spot a patch in the woods from 30 yards away.
Items needed: Depending on the conditions of the place where
you decide to hunt for mushrooms the bare
minimum equipment you’ll need are a few good legs and possibly a bag to put the mushrooms into. A
small coarse bristled brush is also nice to bring along to aid in cleaning dirt and debris from your
freshly harvested mushrooms. Few good chanterelle areas are accessible by vehicle and often require
a lengthy hike into deeply wooded areas. A small day pack with water, snacks, extra jacket, ect. is a
good idea to bring along. In areas with bears, mountain lions, or other predators, a firearm might also
be a good idea to bring along. Remember you will more than likely be deep in the woods and out of your
normal element. Prepare accordingly.
(Close-up of Chanterelles pushing up from the forest duff.)
When to look: While most wild mushrooms seem to wait for
a specific set of temperatures before they
appear, chanterelles tend to wait for a specific amount of moisture. In the Pacific North West there
needs to be a good rain of at least 3 inches before they begin to appear. The forest floor needs to
be completely saturated to spur fruiting. If you spend a lot of time in the area you will be hunting
you will learn when the right storm has passed through and it’s time to go see if anything is popping
up. The Pacific North West tends to get the right conditions in early fall. In other areas of the world
this time could be early spring. Ask around to find the most likely time for the area you will be
hunting. Chanterelles are a very slow growing mushroom and they have the ability to repel bugs that
would normally affect many other mushrooms that were exposed for so long. If the mushrooms pop out
and then conditions dry out rapidly you will begin to notice some faster deterioration on the mushrooms
and thus have a smaller harvest window. If the storms persist for several weeks you might find yourself
harvesting in the rain and notice the mushrooms begin to get mushy. Ideal conditions are a big storm
followed by a few weeks of cloudy and mildly wet weather. A great harvest here can last for a few months.
Other years there is none to be found. Older Chanterelles will begin to get splits on the outer edge
of the fluted cap and eventually the outer edge will darken and get hard. The best mushrooms to get are
the ones that are still slightly buried by the forest duff.
(An ideal forested area to find Chanterelles in)
Where to look: Chanterelles are nothing more than the flower
of an immense underground web of fungus.
This particular fungus grows in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of certain types of trees. In the
Pacific Northwest these trees are Douglas Fir and occasionally Tan Oak. Other parts of the world find
Chanterelles growing under Conifers, Birch, Pine, Beech, and Chestnut forests. The age of the stand of
trees is also an important factor in Chanterelle establishment. It seems that the stand of trees need
to be at least 15-20 years old to support an established Chanterelle population. The Pacific Northwest
hosts a plethora of second growth forests that were logged in the 60’s and 70’s and are now prime for
Chanterelle establishment. Some people also believe that Chanterelles are sensitive to elevation as well
but this is more than likely a correlation between the elevation at which a dominate stand of a
particular type of tree can become established. Most buffer zones that separate pasture land and dense
forest are made up of a mix of Conifers and smaller less dominate varieties of trees. Chanterelles
prefer patches of forest that don’t have a mix of trees. In this area the forest floor must be almost
100% fir needles before you begin to see Chanterelles. Since Chanterelles are the flower of an
underground web, this web stays in the same place year after year. If you find Chanterelles in a
specific area one year and the area stays relatively unmolested over the summer, (the ground doesn’t
get tore up by vehicles or fire), you will more than likely find mushrooms there next year. This is one
reason why people are protective over spots they have had success at. Once you get into a zone with
Chanterelles you should spend some time scouting out all the surrounding area to gauge how large an
area you have to hunt for future visits.
Distinguishing features: The mushrooms pictured in this
article are members of the Pacific Golden
Chanterelle. It is generally dull to bright yellow in color. The mushrooms form a wavy, fluted top
not like the typical mushroom cap you think of. As the mushrooms grow older they tend to flatten out
with an uneven outer ring.
Chanterelles have gill like ridges under the cap that run down the stem or
The ridges are forked (dividing). The gills of a Chanterelle are the most easily distinguishable feature.
The stalk of the mushroom is solid and not ringed. Occasionally you will find two or three growing from
a common spot and sort of connected. Each will have its own stalk.A spore print will show up slightly
white or pale yellow if done on a dark surface and will be invisible if performed on the standard index
card or white paper. Size of Chanterelles can vary from 2 pound specimens on the West Coast to the thumb
size versions of European descent.
Look-alikes: While there are some mushrooms that are yellow
in color that come out at the same time as
Chanterelles the easiest way to check is to look at the gills on the bottom side of the cap. Look for
the gill like uneven structures under the cap that run down the stalk of the mushroom. Some areas have
what is called a Jack-O-Lantern mushroom that grows in clumps and looks vaguely similar. Boletus
mushrooms can appear similar on top but have no veins under the cap. In other parts of the world there
may be other similar looking poisonous species. One more reason it is key to learn from somebody with
local experience before you go on your own. These have what look like a sponge under the cap. Older
Chanterelles can look vastly different than a fresh one. If you have even a little doubt about what
you are looking at, don’t pick it.
Cultural Practices: Let’s start with basic outdoor
culture. If you enter a pristine wilderness it is
your duty to leave it exactly like you found it. Zero impact should always be your goal when exploring
the outdoors. Following animal trails through the deeps woods is always the path of least resistance.
When you do find a patch of Chanterelles in the wild resist the urge to pick every mushroom you find.
Remember where you spotted the first mushrooms and then “shop around” in the area and see if there are
better looking specimens around. 4 to 5 mushrooms are sufficient to feed 2-3 people. Do not take more
than you need. Chanterelles are able to reproduce even when completely picked year after year but this
is not true for all mushrooms and in general practice there is no need to completely wipe out a patch
that you find in the wild.
(A nice bag of freshly harvested Chanterelles)
Cleaning and storage: The most important item when it comes
to cleaning and storage of your fresh
mushrooms is to NEVER WASH THE MUSHROOMS UNTILL YOU ARE READY TO COOK THEM. They are dirty and covered with forest duff when you collect them. This will not harm you. Use a stiff bristled brush to remove
most of the debris. The pros insist that you must use a boar bristle brush but really any brush will
do just fine. Brush the gills thoroughly and any cracks on cap paying special attention to look for
any little bugs or worms. If you wash the mushrooms and then try to store them even temporarily you
will get a good understanding of where the mush in the name mushrooms comes from. It’s ok to wash them
briefly right before you chop them up and throw them in the pan but don’t do this before you are ready.
If you are not going to eat them right away, you can store them in a refrigerator for several days in
a paper bag or open plastic bag. The condition begins to deteriorate soon after picking. Long term
storage of wild mushrooms varies and would take an article of its own to begin to give a good overview
of all the methods available. In short a common method involves cubing the Chanterelles and cooking
them about half way and then freezing them in zip lock bags or similar storage devices. Dehydrating
wild mushrooms is another popular method of preserving wild mushrooms.
NewWorldSeedCompany.com welcomes your comments or questions. If you want
a guided mushroom hunt by
our staff we could talk (for the right price). Check the Contact page for further info.