The little coastal town of Tofino is the surfing mecca of Canada. Its beautiful beaches and old growth forests do well to extend its offerings to non-surfers like myself. Two weeks ago some friends let us in on a little secret – chanterelle mushrooms had come early this year. It was the first week of September and these golden gems were popping up everywhere. A quick run down for us first timers on the how-to’s of chanterlles picking gave us an idea of their preferred growing area, how to harvest them sustainably, and how to differentiate them from look a-likes. After some more research and learning from seasoned chanterelle pickers, I’m sharing my How To Harvest Chanterelle Mushrooms and other tips.
A little background on Chanterelles
- Some consider Chanterelles to be one of the best edible mushrooms. Their rich flavour puts them on the same short list as other gourmet fungi such as truffles and morals,
- They first gained recognition in 18th centurey France where they were found on the menus serving royalty,
- They are a rich source of vitamin D which they, like us, get from the sun,
- They are high in fibre, and a source of B-vitamins.
Looking for chanterelles is like searching for gold. From far away you can spot the clusters of these golden mushrooms, and as they often grown in groups it is relatively easy to gather an impressive bounty in a short amount of time. In this particular spot, a 45 minute session provided us with 4 pounds (2kg) of chanterelle mushrooms. Aside from cooking them up in butter and garlic, I love making Chanterelle Barley Risotto with Kale and Mung Beans with them.
How To Harvest Chanterelle Mushrooms
I would encourage everyone to get out into nature and gather their own food as the end result is so rewarding. Though keep in mind there are some unspoken rules as well as some risks. It is always best to consult with an expert mushroom harvester, or join a friend who is confident in mushroom picking before picking any mushroom*. Here are some of my top tips for how to harvest chanterelle mushrooms;
- Find the mushrooms in heavily wooded areas with a mixture of different trees, making sure it is not soley pine or ceder. They like mossy areas that have had a lot of rainfall,
- They don’t grow near wild blueberry bushes,
- Look for small slops where water runoff would end up. They like damp areas, often at the bottom of small hills,
- You may also find them on the sides of roads and trails as tend to like grounds that have been disturbed,
- Watch out for look-alikes. Chanterelles have deep wrinkles or ridges underneath their caps, but do not have plate-like gills. The poisonous look alike the Jack-O’Lantern mushroom will not kill you, but will give you some nasty digestive problems. Jack-O’Lanterns have true gills and usually grow on decaying wood, whereas chanterelles like soil. Jack Lanterns also grow in large groups with the stems attached, whereas chanterelles grown singularly. Find a reputable source to verify these differences,
- False chanterelles are another look alike. Although some sources say they are edible, reportedly they are far too bitter to taste good. Other sources state they can give digestive upset so it is best to avoid the false chanterelle altogether. False chanterelles have true gills, and they tend to be a brighter orange with no yellow in comparison to true chanterelles,
- Avoid the small ones and come back in a few weeks when they are mature,
- When harvesting your mushrooms always cut the stem above the base with a knife or some scissors. This allows more mushrooms to grow in the future,
- After cutting the stem, give the mushrooms a little tap to release their spores, this is thought to allow more mushrooms to grow in that same area the following season,
- Take them home and wash well, but not with water as they will absorb the water and can become soggy. You can purchase a special mushroom brush, or just use paper towel to wipe them down. Use a tooth brush to get in between the gills if necessary,
- Chanterelles should stay good for about a 1 week in a paper bag in your fridge or about a year in your freezer. They can also be dried or dehydrated,
- When cooking chanterelles, like most mushrooms they need a high heat and be sure not to ‘crowd’ the pan. Heat up some butter, oil and garlic and add just enough chanterelles to the pan so they are not touching each other. Depending on their size they may only need about five minutes. They go well with in soup, stews, with eggs or in creamy sauces. Also great just on their own,
- Return the following year to your previously harvested areas, and share your best harvesting spots with those you love most.
*If you are unsure of some mushrooms while picking, make sure you keep them separate from the mushrooms you are sure you have correctly identified. This ensures no cross contamination of potentially poisonous mushrooms. Find a reliable source to help you identify which are safe and which aren’t.
**Here is a good link with pictures on how to differentiate Jack Lantern mushrooms, False Chanterelles, and edible chanterelle mushrooms.