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Cantharellus is a genus of popular edible mushrooms, commonly known as chanterelles. They are mycorrhizal fungi, meaning they form symbiotic associations with plants, which makes it a challenge to cultivate domestically. There are many common name Chanterelles (over 40+ in North America alone) the common name for the chanterelle below is known as golden chanterelle (photographed below). 

Identity: Chanterelles take some time to get used to identifying properly but the two most telling characteristics are that they have folds or ridges that are affixed to the underside of the mushroom and aren’t easily disturbed when touch unlike that of true gills on other mushrooms, and the insides of the stem and flesh are pure white. This means that look-alikes will not have folds and instead have gills, and when cut in half – they will not be crisp white. The inside of a chanterelle also doesn’t stain or change colors when you cut into it. As they begin to grow – they start as golden buttons and bloom out into gently concave in, forming a bit of a cone but not always. Some have a crown in the center that is gently raised as it matures. The ridges or folds follow part of the way down the stem and looks a bit like they melt like wax into the stem where other mushrooms stop at the center stalk. 

They tend to grow singularly or in sparse patches. There are look-alikes that are poisonous if consumed. Don’t be in a rush! Take some time, identify and study with your eyes the fungi you have growing around you. Get familiar and learn about their prefered habitats and what is common around you. Find a reliable foraging buddy near you that knows your area. Get a good colored mushroom identification book specific to your region. Study up!

Books I recommend:

How to Forage for Mushrooms without Dying

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

Peterson Guide to Mushrooms of North America, 2nd Edition

Best Time To Hunt: I have noticed in my region (south-central Appalachian) that I can easily find golden chanterelles in late summer to early fall, before a hard frost. Typically, the ground is shaded, warm, and saturated from a good rain. I find the best patches when it has rained for more than a day and go out on a sunny day. If it’s humid, I can find them popping up quickly in moss or damp leaf litter. When humidity is high, soil is warm and moist from a good rain (usually the ground is fairly saturated), in a wooded area – shaded with plenty of leaf litter. Chanterelles seem to like disturbed and loose, loamy soil so you may notice them along deer paths, wet weather draws, foot paths or near fallen trees. 

Forage responsibly: Our wild life love these mushrooms as much or more as we do. When harvesting, cut from the base or snap and leave a bit in the ground. This can be tricky with eager children, just do your best to leave pieces in the ground and cover it up. If There are 5 in an area, leave 2-3 for wildlife and regeneration and pick from another area. Leaving older chanterelle, stems, and pieces behind is a great way to ensure they will continue to proliferate. Chanterelles do not have a high spore count as other mushrooms, so do your part and forage responsibly. 

Give your foraged mushrooms the royal treatment with my wild mushroom risotto.

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