Foragers throughout the region are searching tirelessly for the coveted golden chanterelle. Some – especially those who have known producing spots – are finding pounds of chanterelles, but most are finding only a few. Unfortunately, I fall into the latter, considerably hungrier, faction of foragers. When I think of all the pristine patches I left behind in Ithaca, I want to hop in the car and drive six hours, but that would be against my better judgment.
Even in Ithaca, I’m not certain I’d be doing much better. Established foragers with home court advantages are still only finding modest flushes throughout the dry Northeast. Climate change does not seem to be playing out in the forager’s favor this summer – most of the region’s rainfall has come in the form of outrageously powerful and fleeting thunderstorms that leave little opportunity for infiltration.
Alas, there is still hope for frustrated foragers like me. Chanterelles season typically lasts until Labor Day, which gives me three more weeks to pray for the perfect storm and pursue the perfect patch.
Labor Day only marks the beginning of the most reliable and epic part of foraging season. I’m not just talking about behemoth hens and unparalleled porcini – the chanterelle passes the baton to a cluster of relatives that prefer the cooler fall weather. Smooth chanterelles, yellow foot chanterelles, and hedgehog mushrooms all provide a second chance to get your chanterelle fix. These mushrooms are not just genetically related to the chanterelle; they share its exotic floral aroma and apricot flavor, and are every bit as distinctive and delicious.
So don’t pity me too much, dear reader. Just last Saturday I was lucky enough to spot a nice clump of chanterelles on a guided foray at the Metta Earth Institute. Workshop participants scoured the immediate vicinity and found several more small fruitings. As they gleefully placed the fresh chanterelles into their baskets or baseball hats, I smiled. Even in a mediocre season, it feels good to be a forager.