Cinnars in moss

Ranging from flamingo pink to a deep autumnal orange, the cinnabar-red chanterelle’s vivid color demands the forager’s attention. Its flavor is classic chanterelle – piney, fruity, floral – and its red hue holds up well to a six minute sauté.

Yet somehow, the cinnabar-red (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) remains an oft-neglected edible that lives in the culinary shadow of its celebrated golden relation. Even at Misery Loves Company, Winooski, VT’s gastronomic gem, the mycophilic chefs had never heard of the exotic “red chanterelle” until an employee (and mushroom apprentice) called us in for ID confirmation before sharing cinnabars with the staff.

Last weekend we were back in our childhood stomping grounds around Amherst, MA to present at the NOFA Summer Conference and lead a guided foray. Just before heading back to Burlington on Sunday, we stumbled upon a seemingly endless patch of cinnabar-reds.

Along with Jenna’s mother, we gleefully followed the long and winding cinnabar road, quickly gathering a few handfuls of these dainty red mushrooms. Cinnabars are rarely even half the size of goldens, but this only increases the pleasure of picking.

Right as we thought we had reached the limits of the patch, Jenna called out from the bushes: “Tons more cinnabars! And goldens!”

The rush of the epic mushroom hunt invigorated me. But before I could start running in Jenna’s direction, I heard a sharp howl and looked up to see her running back towards me. “Swarm! Swarm!”

I felt a yellowjacket sting me as several more ganged up on Jenna, and soon both of us were running madly out of the woods as I swatted yellowjackets off Jenna’s head. Aside from the one minor sting, I was unscathed. It was Jenna they were after, and she was left with eight smoldering welts. But with a basketful of cinnabar reds in hand, how can one complain?