ForageCast: Veins of Golden Chanterelles


The forest is flush with veins of gold that cut through dark hemlock stands and weave their way around towering spruce. A week of powerful afternoon thunderstorms broke the early July dry spell, receding to reveal a bumper crop of chanterelles flanked by porcini. Watch your step, because lobsters are lurking underfoot, and baby black trumpets are sprouting between the beech trees. The slugs have already arrived at the great woodland feast, and I invite you to join them!

July hunting can be muggy, buggy, and inconsistent, but don’t let the horseflies keep you away from the harvest. If your favorite local forest proves fruitless, try a different patch of woods. You don’t need to go far to shake things up.

I led a private guided foray on Sunday that started slow as I crawled around beech trees scouring the moss for black trumpets still too tiny to reveal themselves. A flush of pristine oysters brightened the mood, but I knew we could do better. We crossed over to the other side of the driveway and found a glistening handful of chanterelles. But it was not until we reached the edge of a dense tangle of spruce and birch that a participant, taking a cigarette break, stumbled upon an inspiring flush. We left plenty of the chanterelles to spread their spores, and walked back to the camp with a brimming basketful.

ForageCast for the next two weeks!

ForageCast for the next two weeks!

ForageCast: Chanterelles, Boletes and their Brethren

Chanterelles - Hands

It rains as I write, a good slow and steady soak that is sure to summon great flushes of gourmet and medicinal fungi. After a dry start to the summer season, golden chanterelles and boletes – from painted to porcini – are poking their familiar faces up from the warm July soil.

Boletes and chanterelles can be divine, but these charismatic fungi should not be mistaken for beginner species.

The jack-o’-lantern is a common, highly poisonous mushroom that is all-too-easily confused for the supremely edible (once cooked) chanterelle. Though not deadly for healthy adults, a jack-o’-lantern dinner is likely to leave you clinging to the toilet bowl for well over 24 hours. The differences between jacks and chanterelles are obvious to experienced foragers, but can be indiscernible to beginners. Once you can have mastered recognition of the golden chanterelle’s attached, forking gills and scattered fruiting habit, you can enjoy a handful of equally delicious, vibrantly colored chanterelle relations as well.

Boletes, pored fungi that grow in mycorrhizal association with plants, are generally safer than gilled mushrooms. No North American boletes are recognized as deadly, but this can lend beginners a false sense of security. Boletes are fairly simple to ID to genus, but identifying to species can vary from straightforward to extremely difficult without microscope and spore print. There are myriad North American boletes known to be edible, a handful of which rank among the most exquisite and savory of all wild mushrooms (such as the Boletus edulis group). There also are “edible” (ie non-poisonous) boletes that are repulsively bitter, and mild-flavored boletes that are highly toxic. Be weary of any blanket rules – you have to know each mushroom, in all its nuance and wild glory.

I had an inspiring morel season, but the June mushrooming dry spell has left me craving the persistence, passion, and abundance of the peak season mushroom hunt. We have not seen peak yet, but I anticipate promising conditions and invigorating surprises for our guided forays this coming weekend!

ForageCast for the next two weeks!

ForageCast for the next two weeks!

ForageCast: Golden Hours

Golden Hours - Chanterelles

I’m eating black raspberries for breakfast, watching them turn from ruby red to a luscious purple as they ripen under the summer sun. Nothing summons memories of summers past like the blackcap – my favorite bramble. My tongue tingles as their zingy burst of flavor finishes with dark, mysterious cloves.

Papa LoveJust overhead, the staghorn sumac’s Dr. Seussian fruits are nearly ready for sumac lemonade. Completing the feast, wild alpine strawberries – compact bundles of strawberry essence – are ripening as the last of their cultivated cousins ferment in the fields.

The July sun is beating down as I wander beyond the periphery and into the damp forest. A destroying angel welcomes me into the woods, and my eyes begin to scan the ground for golden streaks. My yellow eyes are on, and they are finding me the season’s first fly agarics, ochre Russulas, and crown-tipped corals, along with a fragrant fistful of dense, bug-free chanterelles.

The colorful cast of summer fungi has arrived, and the woods are growing wetter and more alive with each passing thunderstorm. Baby Eliana Mina is here too, though for now she is spending more time in the bassinet than in the backwoods. Soon, she will ride in the snuggly and join us as we delight in the abundance of summer.

Northeastern ForageCast for the upcoming week!

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!

Cinnabar-red Chanterelle: As Good as Gold

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?

ForageCast: Chanterelle Gold Rush Continues

Black Trumpets - Hands

We parked our car at the Great Gulf Wilderness lot and headed into the White Mountain foothills for a pilgrimage to a favorite camping retreat during our high school and undergraduate years.

Hearty flushes of hygophorus milkies and painted suillus welcomed us into the wilderness, and scattered bands of chanterelles drew us deeper into the coniferous woods. After a sweaty couple mile trek in, we arrived at the majestic campsite in the shadow of the Presidentials and laid down our packs. We could hear the river rushing below, so we headed down for a swim. We were delighted to find the shores lined with gold, and we enjoyed a frigid dip alongside the chanterelles.

photo (3)Soon the sky grew dark, and we lamented the fact that we had not brought olive oil into the woods to cook up our treasures. We lovingly tucked them into the pocket of our tent, and spent a restful night dreaming of chanterelle omelets.

The next morning I stumbled out of the tent and brewed a pot of cowboy coffee as Jenna walked into the dense spruce and birch woods with toilet paper in hand. She emerged a few minutes later, just as I was taking the first sip of coffee straight out of the metal pot, with a glowing smile: “Chanterelles!”

I felt like a gold prospector as I bushwhacked my way into the evergreens with my pot of coffee. Jenna’s find was stunning – a long, winding band of chanterelles that almost glowed against the dark ground. I sprung into action, heading deeper into the wilds in search of additional golden nuggets. More chanterelles punctuated the forest floor, as well as my first yellow foot chanterelles and black trumpets of the season.

I even found a few pristine looking early porcini, but upon closer inspection their savory flesh was already squirming with life. Unable to resist the season’s first ceps, I detached the maggot-infested stem, peeled off the pores, and carefully selected a couple relatively maggot-free bites. There are few mushrooms that I eat without cooking but, like the maggots, I find raw porcini to be a divine trailside snack. Its nutty, bolete-alicious aftertaste lingers on the tongue long after the fear of having consumed raw maggots subsides.

The hills are alive with the mushrooms of summer – now is the time to find your own forest feast!

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!

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