Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nature's Gifts: Chanterelles

Two weeks ago, in Portland, Oregon, we had a LOT of rain.
The past week, we have had chilly but sunny days.
A few days of fall rain followed by a few days of sun = Chanterelles!

Cantharellus formosus, the Pacific golden chanterelle, was designated the official mushroom of the state in 1999.  It is a separate species from the golden chanterelle mushroom.  The Pacific's physical appearance is distinguised from the other chanterelle mushrooms by its long, graceful stem tapering to the base, tiny dark scales on the cap surface, pinkish orange-yellow cap colors, and a pinkish hue in the false gills.  

In wet conditions, the scales and pinkish colors are sometimes absent. 
They are also often absent in young mushrooms.

There are many varieties of Chanterelle found in the Pacific Northwest forests. 
Most are excellent eating!

Chanterelles are among the easiest mushroom to identify.
They are bright orange.
The gills on the underside don't end abrubtly, but travel gently down the stem.

And the fragrance, well... 
it's a lot like fresh apricots to some.

You would think that the bright orange would make them easy to spot in the forest.
That's not always true.
Chanterelles love to hide...
under the edge of logs, 
under similar colored fallen leaves...
and mostly under moss.

Oregon's Chanterelles are mycorrhizal. There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between them and the trees beneath which they grow. Often, you find them under Douglas Fir and/or Hemlock trees. The mycelia coat the roots of the trees, helping to protect them from disease. It also helps retain water in the dry months.   The mycelia, in turn, derives nourishment from the trees without harming them. In fact, Chanterelles are a prime indicator of a healthy forest.

Look-Alikes:  Here are a few look-alikes. It's easy to see the difference when they are side by side:
Hedgehogs have TEETH instead of gills.
But the good news is Hedgehogs are a choice edible also!

Jack-o-lanterns have free, parallel gills. 
The inner flesh is ORANGE when you slice them.
They will give you a belly ache. Learn to i.d. them!

Chanterelles have attached FORKED gills that run down the stem of the fruit.
The inner flesh is WHITE when you slice them!

I'd suggest you go with someone who knows mushrooms the first few times you pick.
Another option is to join your local mycological society and go on forages with a group.

Cleaning:  Do not wash your chanterelles!  When you get home, brush off the dirt with a soft brush, like a watercolor brush. Then put them in a paper sack, loosely closed, in the fridge, where they will keep around a week.  If you get a LOT, you can pressure can them in jars and they keep quite well. They must be pressured for 75 minutes. Find instructions online.  

Chanterelles do not dry well, in my opinion. They lose their flavor. Best to use them fresh or can them.

Cooking:  There are tons of recipes online. The simplest way to eat them is to sautee them in butter or olive oil. You can add the sauteed shrooms to omelettes or meat dishes, or just use them as a side dish. You can bake them, make soup, or add them to pasta. They are a lovely mushroom with a sweet subtle taste. A bit of heaven!
Chanterelles and Shell Pasta

Cream of Chanterelle Soup

Chanterelle and Egg Noodles
Chanterelles on Toast

Chanterelle and Egg Sandwiches

Chanterelle Tarts
 I do not suggest you eat chanterelles raw. 
They are peppery and can cause serious stomach upset.

Here is the basket of chanterelles I picked today!

Ecology: Mycorrhizal with western hemlock and other conifers; growing alone, gregariously, or in small clusters in old-growth and second-growth forests in fall and winter; British Columbia, Oregon, and northern California.
Cap: 2-14 cm; convex with an inrolled margin, becoming broadly convex, flat, or shallowly depressed with an inrolled, uplifted, or irregular-wavy margin; the center not becoming perforated; fairly smooth, finely suede-like, or slightly roughened; bright to dull orange-yellow, with a grayish to brownish pigment layer that is nearly invisible in wet conditions but becomes more prominent with drying or with age in dry weather, appearing as tiny, darker scales; often bruising and discoloring yellowish.
Undersurface: With well developed false gills; pale orange-yellow, with a pinkish cast in most collections.
Stem: 4-8 cm long; to 2 cm thick at apex; usually tapering gracefully downward; more or less smooth; colored like the cap or paler; often bruising yellow near the base; fleshy.
Flesh: Whitish to very pale yellowish.
Chemical Reactions: Possibly pale green with iron salts, but this reaction is recorded for one Oregon specimen only, "after refrigeration for several days" (Redhead et al., 1997), without specification of the precise location (cap surface, false gills, flesh, etc.) of the test--and iron salts solutions themselves can appear greenish, depending on how they are prepared. I stupidly did not test the Cantharellus formosus specimens I have seen.
Odor and Taste: Taste mild; odor weakly sweet.
Spore Print: Whitish to pale yellowish.
Microscopic Features: Spores 7-9 x 5-6 ยต; smooth; more or less elliptical.

* * *

If we witches are truly stewards of the Earth,
shouldn't we KNOW the earth?
Shouldn't we be able to identify the foods 
she so generously provides us?
The medicinal herbs?
The remedies?

I suggest you start a notebook,
and begin looking around you.
Take some time out of each day,
or each week,
to open your senses and to explore the Mother.
Then keep notes.
Notes about what you see, taste, hear, smell, and feel.
Notes about your thoughts,
your body changes,
the changes in your neighborhood.
Keep a record of the changing seasons.
Keep a record of where and when you find gifts from the Mother.
Doing this will help you reconnect with Nature.
Instead of watching the clock,
watch Her.

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