Cantharellus Cibarius: Queen of Kingdom Fungi

Reader Contribution by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt
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If you were tempted by Boletus Edulis, King of Kingdom Fungi, prepare to be seduced by the Queen of the Fungi Kingdom, Chanterelles, Cantharellus cibarius

Many a heated argument has occurred in determining the ranking of Boletes versus Chanterelles.  You see how I stack my cards, but many may disagree.  An amusing excerpt from David Aurora’s All That the Rain Promises and More, suggests:

“Boletes are the round mother-earth mushrooms of the forest floor.  They’re rich, they’re nutty, they’re buttery, and their flavor is the flavor of the forest. Chanterelles are more like the queen seductress: fruity, peppery, richer, more difficult to work with from a cooking standpoint, and complex, and very singular.  I don’t have a preference.  They’re so different.  It’s like comparing pinot noir and cabernet—whichever one you happen to like is better.” (Jack Czarcecki). 

Delicately textured and sinfully aromatic, the trumpet-shaped Chanterelle is one of the most popular fall mushroom varieties, popping through the forest floor with an abundant vibrancy. Edible Chanterelles include: Yellow, White, Winter, Pig’s Ear, Black Trumpet, and Blue.  What a trip it would be to find a Black or Blue Chanterelle; my fortunes have been limited to Yellow and White, with an occasional wormy Pig’s Ear.

Key Features of Chanterelles

Frills and gills are the easiest way to identify Chanterelles.  The cap is ornately frilled around the edges.  Take notice that the top is a solid surface that does not funnel inward toward the stem.  The color of species will vary.  The underside of the mushroom is gilled with vein-like features running in between; the gills are soft, blunt and well spaced, not blade like.  The stalk is the same color as the cap, and solid. Chanterelles have a soft perfume scent. 

Where and When to Find Chanterelles

Chanterelles are found on the ground, under conifers and oaks.  Typically, if you find one, you are going to find all.  The Queen Chanterelle is gracious to her foragers, and extends her welcoming presence much longer than the Bolete.  Chanterelles can withstand cooler temperatures, so the season continues through the first signs of frost. 

Identification of False Varieties

The one species of Chanterelle that is not recommended for eating is the Scaly Chanterelle, Gomphus floccosus.  If unfamiliar with the usual look of Chanterelles, it is easy to confuse this variety with the Yellow Chanterelle.  There are two easily distinguishable features.  Scaly Chanterelle has scales on its cap, and the cap is hollow to the stem.  A quick check to a reference book is all you need! 

Cooking with Chanterelles

I am equally giddy when cooking with Chanterelles. The flesh is firm and squeaky like mozzarella cheese, and very rarely have I ever found unwanted company dwelling inside of my to-be dinner.  To prepare, just simply rinse with water, and slice up thinly. Dry sauté with shallots or onions until all the moisture cooks out or stick a batch on the grill. Chanterelles pair magnificently with pasta dishes and wild game.  Last year I was even inspired to make Chanterelle pie with a savory cream cheese double crust.  Rich, savory, almost too filling, a little went a long way.

I do not prefer to dehydrate Chanterelles. The reconstituted version is gummy and lacking in flavor.  The better method of preservation, if you can withstand eating your full bounty, is to cook first then freeze.  Now, the mushroom can be added to any dish or reheated and processed into what the Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook calls the sexiest soup ever, Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.

With descriptive words like seductress, sexy, and sinful, don’t you want to take a romp across the forest floor? 

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