Cinnabar Red Chanterelle

Guardian of the Cinnabar Chanterelles

It’s nearly dusk and I am bushwhacking up a steep hillside of mixed conifers, punctuated by ancient oaks. The oaks that stabilize these craggy slopes are survivors – spared widespread logging not due to conservation but to convenience, the prohibitive price of hauling hardwood out a ravine.

One elder oak invites me to sit down and rest my spine against its sturdy trunk as I gaze down at the sloping forest floor and catch my breath. Sometimes the hunter sees more by slowing down. A sliver of sunlight catches the rich, rosy hue of a collection of brightly colored mushrooms, so I leave my pack by the oak and stumble downhill to investigate.

Soon I have harvested a handful of fragrant cinnabar red chanterelles, more elusive and exotic than their celebrated golden relatives. Cinnabars tend to be small and can be good hiders despite their brilliant red coloring, and I wonder if I am just scraping the surface of a bigger flush. In the dimming daylight I carefully massage the duff, pulling back a clump of decaying pine needles and oak leaves to find several new cinnabars stretching up from the ground. More and more cinnabars begin popping into view – most too young to harvest – but my hunter instincts keep me surveying the scope of the patch and planning a return later in the week.

Crawling around under a darkening sky, well aware that it’s time to head back uphill to reclaim the pack I’d left by the oak, I notice an odd buzzing sound. I look at the soil, just inches from my face, and see a few massive earthworms wriggling around nervously. I wonder if the wriggling of these behemoths is creating the buzzing sound, but I’ve never known earthworms to be very vociferous creatures.

I clumsily uproot a small cinnabar I did not intend to harvest, and as I lament my overzealous twilight hunting I hear the buzzing noise escalate.I look down and notice it is originating from my hand. A bee! I feel a sharp pain as the stinger sinks into the pad of my forefinger and, recalling the time my father was swarmed after sitting on a rotting log, I take off sprinting. I could hear more buzzing and envisioned a fiery swarm on my tail, and I bolted back up to my backpack and out of the woods, now dark. When I ran out of breath and looked back, I found not one bee had followed me. And why would they have? The bees were quite content to return to their duties protecting the cinnabar patch.

By |August 15th, 2017|Cinnabar Red Chanterelle, Wildcrafting|Comments Off on Guardian of the Cinnabar Chanterelles|

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?

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