Delightful chanterelles

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Wild mushroom season has become something we look forward to with particular delight. Around the cottage, autumn always delivers some culinary surprises and this Labour Day weekend was no exception. On Sunday afternoon my partner and I found this cluster of delicious and exquisite chanterelles.

In Ontario, wild mushrooms may appear throughout the growing season, but the greatest diversity appears with the onset of cooler, wetter weather. The holiday weekend was one of the hottest of the summer, so I didn’t expect to find anything spectacular.

We did however go mushroom hunting. I’ll be giving a talk on fungi in February so I wanted to find some specimens to populate my slideshow. Quite a few species volunteered to be photographed, like little people standing in the woods: some deadly amanitas, some edible but confusing and unremarkable boletes and a variety of other characters.

We also found three black elfin saddles, Helvella lacunosa, growing beside the roadway. These were new for us. They’re edible, so we brought them home to sample (they were too small to provide a strong impression, but seemed to have an intense flavour).

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I took hundreds of photos. I’ll post some more in the future, but my working laptop has gone for repairs so I won’t be able to process all those images until it comes home.

I spent an hour or so lying down and scrunching up my body to get good shots of the mushrooms. I call it this exercise macro yoga. I was nearly exhausted so we had turned around and were heading back to the cottage when Danny spied a clump of yellow, deformed mushroom caps near the road. They seemed ugly where they grew amid the moss but, overturning one, I found the striking wide gill ridges and recognized the mushroom immediately as a chanterelle. On closer examination we identified it as the most sought-after species, Cantharellus cibarius.

Our previous forays around the cottage have turned up oyster mushrooms and the beautiful, delectable comb tooth, but this substantial gathering of chantarelles was our best find yet. They supposedly smell of apricots but to my nose the fragrance was more evocative of pumpkin. Sautéed in butter, they had a subtly sweet and fruity taste, quite tender and delicious.

As always, I must encourage caution with wild mushrooms. They can be confusing and some are deadly. Foraging is best learned from someone experienced. Always use a good field guide and don`t take chances; never eat anything if you can`t identify it definitely and know that it`s edible.

Chanterelles turned up when we went foraging with Patrick Louch last year, but as I recall we found only a few small ones, not enough to enjoy the gastronomic effect. In the future, I`ll keep a keen eye open for this delicacy. For more information read the Fall 2014 issue of Edible Toronto magazine; my article is online, Trumpets, hedgehogs and chanterelles: tracking the elusive mushroom.


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