Chanterelle mushrooms are pleasantly aromatic fleshy wild mushroom that shine like an exotic golden flower when seen from a distance. Also known as “golden chanterelle” and “egg mushroom,” it has a magical appeal for most culinary experts in Europe, United States, and Asia; but all chanterelles are not alike.
Chanterelle mushrooms seem to be worth their weight in gold. They are golden looking, golden tasting, and golden priced. The cap is fleshy, with wavy, rounded cap margins. The gills are not the usual thin straight panels hanging from the lower surface of the cap, as we see in the common store mushroom.
Instead, the ridges are rounded, blunt, shallow, and widely spaced. At the edge of the cap they are forked and interconnected. The chanterelle’s aroma is variously described as apricot- or peach like. It is unmistakably different and identifiable.
Mycologists believe that the original Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) may actually be made up of a number of different species. Being able to recognize false gills is one of the most useful skills for chanterelle identification. False gills appear as forked folds or interlaced wrinkles on the underside of a mushroom.
False gills of a chanterelle mushroom are not easily removed from the cap, and look as though they have “melted”. You couldn’t separate them from the cap without ripping something.
It is important to note that the false gills of chanterelle mushrooms run down the stem but true gills however are individual, blade-like structures. They can be picked off separate from the cap and each other just like typical button mushrooms in the grocery store.
Other identification features:
Cap: Either convex or vase shaped; mainly light yellow to orange-yellow, although there is a peach-colored Cantharellus persicinus.
Stem: Smooth, with no bulb around the base or ring. Not hollow. Same color as the cap.
Chanterelle mushrooms usually form a symbiotic beneficial relationship with plant or tree roots. You’ll find them on the ground in a variety of hardwood forests. Often found near washes, the edges of dirt roads, or other places where the ground has been disturbed.
Smell & Season: Just picked specimens will have a sweet smell like apricots. They are likely to be found anytime from July to September, or whatever passes as mid-summer to early fall in your area.
Golden chanterelle mushrooms have many look- alikes. They are most commonly confused with either the jack o’lantern or the false chanterelle. Although not fatal, neither should be eaten.
jack o’lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus olearius, Omphalotus illudens, Omphalotus olivascens) contain the toxin muscarine. If eaten, they can cause severe cramps and diarrhea.
One of the best ways to identify a chanterelle from a jack o’lantern is by examining the gills. Remember that chanterelle mushrooms have false gills, which are forking wrinkles on the underside of the mushroom that appear “melted”. Jack o’lanterns have true gills, meaning they are non-forked and knife-like.
Other ways to tell a jack o’lantern from a chanterelle:
Jack o’lanterns grow in large groups with the stems attached. True chanterelles on the other hand are usually solitary or in a small bunch with separate stems.
Jack o’lanterns are more orange, less yellow.
True chanterelles will always be near trees as they are mycorrhizal fungi. Jack o’lanterns may appear where there are no trees.
An experienced eye usually won’t have a hard time distinguishing between a jack o’lantern and a chanterelle. Take some time to look at pictures and try to find examples in the wild. A trip out with your local mushroom club can be of great help.
The next look-alike is the aptly named false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca). Although some say this mushroom is edible, it reportedly is far too bitter to taste good.
There are some claims that this mushroom is outright poisonous, giving them upset stomachs and digestive problems. Thus it’s best to avoid the false chanterelle altogether.
Again, the main way to tell true chanterelle mushrooms from false is by examining the gills. False chanterelles have true gills, although they are forked on the edges. They still appear as close blades rather than lumpy folds.
Another way to distinguish the two is with color. The false chanterelle is a deeper orange with no yellow. The color is also graded, meaning they’re darker at the center of the cap rather than one uniform color.
Since chanterelles grow exuberantly, this can be a chore. The cap margins fold tightly to form crevices from which it is difficult to dislodge debris. Sometimes it is necessary to section portions of larger specimens to get at foreign material.
Use a nylon mushroom brush to whisk away any surface material. In order to clean small particles of sand or dirt caught between the rounded gills, you must brush them under a slowly running faucet.
Do not soak them. In general, the less water the better. Drain them on paper towels. They keep well if allowed to remain in a waxed paper or brown paper bag in the refrigerator until they are cleaned.
However, cleaned chanterelle mushrooms may also be stored in the refrigerator for a few days; loosely arranged in a bowl lined with cloth or paper towels and covered lightly with towels.
Preserving Chanterelle Mushrooms
Freeze chanterelle mushrooms after sautéing with butter and onions. When defrosted, they will retain most of their flavor.
Dried chanterelles lose flavor and the texture of the slices becomes rubbery. A chef recently suggested that dried chanterelles reconstituted in water overnight retain more flavor if the soaking water is included when they are cooked.
To can chanterelle mushrooms, clean them thoroughly and cut them in big chunks and steam for 20 minutes. Place the pieces in small canning jars and cover them with the liquid from the steaming vessel or boiling water to make up the difference. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Finally, sterilize them for 40 minutes in a pressure cooker at 10 pounds pressure.
Chanterelles can be pickled with various spices and flavorings in vinegar, oil, soy sauce, etc.. They will keep for a week in the refrigerator
Never eat a mushroom based solely on what you’ve learned online, including this page. Be sure to get some practice with a local expert, and never eat anything you can’t positively identify!1