One of the best Fall forages are chanterelle mushrooms! If you’re new to foraging, in this post I’ll go over how to forage for chanterelles.
Unlike other species of mushrooms, chanterelles have a sweet, fruity, pleasant smell (slightly like apricot) & are very delicious!
They grow around late Summer into early Fall. During this time of the year, they are often sold for a high price because they cannot be grown commercially, they have to be foraged.
The time and effort involved and their high demand mean that fetch a hefty price – up to $25/lb Maybe something to keep in mind if you’re looking to make money on your homestead.
How to forage for Chanterelle mushrooms
Foraging for chanterelles is not easy for first timers. I once thought that their bright & striking color may make them easily identifiable in the woods, but I was wrong.
Because of these mushroom look-alikes, we need to be extra careful when foraging for chanterelles, lest we would be bringing home a poisonous one!
I did my research and realized that what we call chanterelles can fall under any of these four genera: Cantharellus, Craterellus, Gomphus, and Polyozellus.
They can range from white, to yellow, to golden and even reddish. Some will have gills on their underside and some will be smooth underneath.
Some grow singly, some grow in scattered communities, and some grow in clumps. If they do grow in clumps, however, it will never be more than four or five at the most.
Generally speaking, however, you won’t find them growing ON dead wood, instead they’ll be growing out of the leaf litter underneath hardwood trees, especially oaks and hickory.
This was a key for me – I’ll use oak and hickory trees as a signal that chanterelles may be nearby.
They tend to grow on paths, sloping hills, and near creek beds.
The cap of chanterelles will be one-four inches across, sloping down to a stem. They cap is usually smooth, with a ruffled, irregular edge.
They’re flat when young but become vase-shaped when they get older.
The ridges you find in the underside of chanterelles will be folds, not gills, and the ridges will continue down into the stem instead of just on the cap.
Chanterelles will be between one-four inches tall.
Chanterelle mushrooms Look-alikes
Don’t also get deceived by the appearance of chanterelle look-alikes as you may also stumble upon them in the same environment and weather conditions.
They may have similarities, but once you get the hang of things, it will no longer be difficult for you to single them out.
If, in your foraging, you come upon a group of orange mushrooms going on wood, these could be jack-o-lanterns.
Check out this awesome video from Learn Your Land to see the differences between chanterelles and jack-o-lanterns:
Jack-o-lanterns are poisonous and can cause severe stomach ache, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea, thus have to be avoided!
They may appear delicious just like chanterelles (and even smell the same), but once you see their gills, you will know they are different!
Unlike chanterelles, Jack-o-lantern mushrooms have true, thin, and sharp non-forking gills.
Furthermore, when you take a closer look at the flesh inside, it doesn’t have a pale, creamy white color (just orange flesh) that chanterelles have.
Hedgehog mushrooms are commonly seen popping up around Autumn.
Although it has the same yellow to orange cap and fruity flavor as chanterelles, these mushrooms are not actually hard to identify through their tooth-covered (downward-pointing spines) undersides that range from pale white to salmon pink.
BUT, hedgehog mushrooms are also edible and very delicious, so you don’t have to worry too much about mistaking chanterelles for hedgehogs.
False chanterelles also grow in the same area where true chanterelles thrive. But unlike true chanterelles, false chanterelles have an umbrella-shaped figure with a depressed cap in the center.
It doesn’t have a uniform yellow color like true chanterelles, but rather displays various orange hues with a darker color at the center.
They also have true, deep orange-colored gills that are slightly lighter than their cap.
I would not recommend eating them as some incident reports proved that it can cause stomach upsets for some people. Also, they are said to not taste great, so better avoid it!
Tips for Foraging for Chanterelle Mushrooms
Foraging for chanterelles is a lot of fun, with a delicious reward at the end, so here are some helpful tips:
- Avoid damaging the chanterelle’s colony. So when harvesting them, you should cut the base of their steam rather than uprooting them directly.
- I recommend picking only mature & clean chanterelles. There is no point in picking the dirt-covered chanterelles as they will only consume cleaning time. Furthermore, leaving them behind will allow them to grow continually and colonize the area.
- Don’t harvest too many chanterelles if you are not going to use up all of them right away.
Cooking with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Now that you have your foraging basket full of chanterelles, what do you do with them?
The chanterelle mushroom has been known since at least the late Medieval Ages as one of the most delectable of all culinary mushrooms.
In addition to being delicious, they are also high in B vitamins, niacin and pantothenic acid. They also contain iron and potassium.
When exposed to sunlight, they also produce a significant amount of vitamin D2.
To clean them for cooking, avoid wetting them, even with a paper towel, because this encourages dirt to stick to them.
Instead use a toothpick, knifepoint or other small implement to flick the dirt and debris off.
You can cook with them fresh, slice them thin to dry them, and they even tolerate freezing well.
Cooked, chanterelles have a peppery, nutty and earth flavor with some of that fruity, apricot-y undertones.
Here are some chanterelle recipes to get you started: