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!

By |August 9th, 2013|Black Trumpet, Chanterelle, ForageCast|Comments Off on ForageCast: Chanterelle Gold Rush Continues|

ForageCast: Flooded with Mushrooms

IMG_2865In the wake of a deluge of Biblical proportions, the mycological landscape is exposed and naked. Well-concealed secrets have been pushed to the surface in a rare tipping of the mycelial hand. Knowledge of the underground mycelial layout that would usually take decades to develop is readily available to anyone with a keen set of forager’s eyes.

For the mushroom hunter, this is all very overwhelming. The forest is erupting with fungi. New species are stepping into the scene daily, from bicolor boletes to black trumpets. It is only mid-July, but it has already been an epic chanterelle season – even in unknown territory, I am finding new patches on almost every outing. Just follow the yellow brick road.

In a gleeful celebration of the rain, Jenna and I headed out into the wilds of Hinesburg. On the drive over, we eagerly listened to a VPR story about the unprecedented early summer rainfall, before setting out into the woods under partly cloudy skies.

Soon we had gathered a satchel full of chanterelles. The distant grumble of thunder, slowly closing in from all directions, felt oddly comforting to these rain-dependent mushroom maniacs.

As the grumble grew to a rumble, the sky turned black and heavy, enveloping us in its dark grip. “Ari, we’re going to get rained on,” Jenna exclaimed, stating the obvious with an uncharacteristic warble in her voice.

Before I could even respond, we heard a sharp snap of thunder, as the sky opened up in all its glory for the tenth day in a row. We might as well have been swimming. “Make sure you keep those chanterelles dry,” I quipped.

The rain was relentless, saturating anything and everything. Soon it had made victims of our iPhone and camera, handily penetrating the plastic bag we’d brought as a contingency plan. Even the mycelium was probably overwhelmed. We were in too deep but we boldly marched on, as our fingertips became prunes and the trail became a river.

As we neared the end of our hike, we arrived at a raging rapid. It was quite the sight to behold, the kind of whitewater that could drown dog, deer, dromedary or dragon. However, the sheer grandeur of the rapid was less inspiring once we realized that this was no river – this was the road we had driven in on!

The landscape had been transformed beyond recognition. The 8-foot diameter culvert that we had driven over into the parking lot had been swept downstream, leaving a muddy ledge that was rapidly eroding as the violent waters slammed up against its shore.

And there, across the divide on a quickly shrinking spit of land, was our Volkswagen.

A friendly family took us in and offered us towels and a change of clothes. When Judah sank his canine teeth into the rear end of one of their chickens, they graciously laughed it off as they saw me tackle him, throwing the traumatized bird out of the ravenous setter’s mouth just in time for it to walk away with a raw, bloodied behind.

We made it out by evening, walking over the closed town roads and meeting a friend on the other side. Our car was stuck on its lonely spit of land for nearly a week, but the floodwaters narrowly spared it. Even the iPhone and camera magically came back to life. Most importantly, though they sweated a bit in the frying pan, the chanterelles we had gathered held up beautifully.

ForageCast - 8-23-11

A Quiet Revolution


As Northeasterners grapple with yet another week of dreary days and squishy socks, a quiet revolution is afoot in the forest. Seemingly in unison, a staggering variety of whimsical woodland denizens are erupting from the warm, wet forest floor. Bearing witness to this grand rite of summer is like being reintroduced to a legion of old friends, popping back up out of the woodwork just as suddenly as they disappeared into the cold grip of winter. I can almost hear myself mumbling to the mushrooms: “Good to have you back, slippery Jack…Chanterelle, ma belle!”

Many of these friends have been virtually absent for a full two years, uninspired by last summer’s drought and holding out for more favorable conditions. I have seen more chanterelles the last few days than I saw throughout the entirety of last summer. They are still small and dainty, but their ethereal apricot fragrance summons memories of the glory of 2011’s bumper crop. After a prolonged rest, the chanterelles have returned to celebrate the splendor of summer.

The slugs are close behind, slowly sliding through the mud and closing in on the incipient bumper crop. They don’t discriminate, equally happy sucking the skin off a violently poisonous Amanita or sliming up a pristine chanterelle. Yet how competitive can I feel with a shell-less snail, struggling to grease its way through the woods? Besides, soon there will be more mushrooms in the forest than even the fattest slugs can handle.

As I waltzed through the woods today nibbling on a young plume of turkey tail and bending down to devour the occasional wild strawberry, I couldn’t help but delight in the new life bursting from the dead wood and duff. Here’s to an abundant summer!

ForageCast: Primed for Chanterelles


As I walked the woods this afternoon, I could practically smell the chanterelles. The soil is wet, the air warm and sticky.

It is almost July, and the colorful cast of summer fungi is just starting to make its grand appearance. After May’s morel madness and June’s mushroom monotony, July marks the beginning of the true foraging season. In a wet July, chanterelles, cinnabar reds, black trumpets, giant puffballs, chicken of the woods, and a panoply of boletes share the sylvan stage and compete for the forager’s attention. Whereas in June even a good soaking rain may only sprout mushrooms suitable for chipmunk nibbling, in July and August the mycelium is primed for gourmet mushroom production. Just add water.

Last July that all-too-important variable was missing, and the chanterelles were late and lazy. This July, the chanterelles will be early and abundant. Or at least that’s what I told myself today as I scoured a deciduous woodland for yellow veins of chanterelles. My eyes were on, and no inch of ground could escape my golden gaze. I turned up some bycatch – a yellow Russula, a pale yellow Amanita pantherina, and an army of yellow waxy caps – but my jewel eluded me.

Yet I remain optimistic. I am still in new territory up here in Vermont, and it is still slightly early for the subtle but seductive chanterelle. All the ingredients are here – the chanterelles just need to wake from their slumber. I anticipate a Vermont arrival by Independence Day.

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!

Hedgehog Mushroom: The Safer Chanterelle

Ari holds hedgehog mushrooms found on a recent foray in Vermont.

The woods are full of teeth right now – not only is lion’s mane starting to ferociously flush, but hedgehogs are popping up along moist riverbeds and streams. Fall has arrived, at least in northern Vermont. 

The hedgehog, or sweet tooth, is perhaps the most foolproof to identify of all wild mushrooms. Its yellow to orange cap and fruity odor are reminiscent of its summer-fruiting relative the golden chanterelle, but its tooth-covered underside distinguishes it from potential look-alikes. Beginning foragers often confuse the chanterelle for the poisonous jack-o’-lantern, which has free, parallel gills as opposed to attached, forked gills. Distinguishing between different gill types can be daunting for novices, but it is far easier to tell teeth from gills.

Thus, hedgehogs are an excellent confidence builder for beginners – as long as the mushroom you have found has a yellow to orange cap and many toothbrush-like teeth on the underside, you have yourself a hedgehog.

As you scour the woods for splashes of yellow, you might also come across another fall-fruiting chanterelle relative – the smooth chanterelle. Like the hedgehog, the smooth chanterelle tastes every bit as good as its celebrated relative the golden chanterelle. Though not quite as foolproof as the singular hedgehog, the smooth chanterelle’s barely wrinkled underside makes it a better bet than the golden chanterelle for beginners.

Once you understand the fruiting habits of the chanterelle clade, you are unlikely to confuse any of them for jacks. Chanterelles and hedgehogs are mycorrhizal fungi that may produce solitary fruit or pairs of two, often arranged in loosely scattered bands or arcs that go far beyond the host tree. I have seen massive chanterelle and hedgehog flushes, but the fruiting habit is more like a loose gold-threaded carpet than a dense clump. If you see a dense clump or tight cluster of “chanterelles,” do not eat unless you are seeking a violent 36-hour purge!

Luckily, you can enjoy hedgehogs without fear. There are two different species of hedgehog, which I refer to as “the little ones” (Hydnum umbilicatum) and “the big ones” (Hydnum repandum). The distinction is immaterial to the forager, since both species are equally delicious, offering a slightly earthier, smokier take on the chanterelle’s trademark apricot flavor. Of course, the bigger the hedgehog, the bigger the meal – Hydnum repandum can be as big as a portabella, while Hydnum umbilicatum typically has a quarter-sized cap. 

So, fledgling foragers, don’t worry about chanterelles for now. This fall, stick to the unmistakable hedgehog!

The cap and toothed underside of hedgehog mushrooms.

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