girolle (French), Pfifferlinge (German), canterello (Italian), rebozuelo (Spanish)
(Cantharellus cibarius – Family Cantharellaceae)
Chanterelles have small, funnel-shaped caps, usually the colour of egg yolks, but fading with age. Colours can range from a pale creamy white to various psychedilic electric blue shades. Thick and fleshy, chanterelles have gill-like wrinkles that run from under the cap to the stem. They have a mild peppery aftertaste when eaten raw and an excellent flavour when cooked. True chanterelles grow on soil in broad-leaved woodlands. Although the term “chanterelle” covers a whole family of mushrooms, it usually refers to the tawny types. Chanterelles grow all over Europe and in many parts of the US, particularly West Virginia. They also can be found in parts of Africa (Zambia), and in China.
Caution: Chanterelles have been confused with the poisonous jack o’ lantern, but this is more of a problem in the East. Most chanterelles are from the Northwest, where there are no jack o’ lanterns. However, it is always a good idea to learn to recognize the blunt, forked ridges of true chanterelles as opposed to the knife-sharp gills of the jack o’ lantern.
African red-capped chanterelle (Cantharellus longisporus or C. symoensii) is a rarity and usually only available in restaurants. It has an astonishing colour and aroma. The smooth small caps are lobster-red to a candy-corn orange, while the stems and gills are golden ocher and exquisitely defined. Its fruity scent will fill a room in much the same way as a truffle. It is imported from Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa during the winter.
Black chanterelle (Craterellus cinereus) is not part of the Cantharellus genus, but is related and included in the larger chanterelle family even though it is conspicuously different in colour and shape. In northern climates, it is found in mature conifer forests with banks of mature moss, growing mainly near mature hardwoods like oaks and poplars. The black chanterelle is a delicious and unusual mushroom with a bluish-grey to black underside that often appears dusted with a pale white bloom. It does tend to bleed a dark gray colour during cooking, so paler companions need to be cooked separately and added at the last minute.
Black trumpet (Cantharellus fallax) and horn of plenty (C. cornucopioides) are also known as “black chanterelles” or by their French name “trompettes de la mort” (trumpets of death), which, for obvious reasons, is not the one used on most menus. Ironically, despite its name, they do not resemble any known dangerous species of mushroom. Shaped like irregular petunias, these mushrooms are gray to black, with an ashy bloom (on cornucopioides) or pinkish (on falla). The droopiness might also suggest a drab flavour, but the opposite is true. It has a curious aroma of blended smoky tea, banana, violets, and peat moss; and, when cooked, their flavour can be as deep and interesting as their colour.
Blue chanterelle, blue cluster (Polyozellus multiplex) is not really blue and not really a chanterelle. Nevertheless, it is becoming popular and showing up with increasing frequently in markets. It is characterized with the chanterelle family because of its superficial resemblance. The colour varies from deep violet to bluish-black, but tends to alter to a gray-black after cooking. The flavour and texture is similar to the “horn of plenty” mushroom.
Funnel chanterelle, winter chanterelle (Cantharellus infundibulformis) is available at specialty shops and is a common component of dried-mushroom mixes, particularly from France. This delicate mushroom quickly loses its shape after picking and can degenerate into a soggy, larvae-infested mess if not stored properly. It needs to be wrapped in plenty of paper towels and refrigerated in a container that provides side ventilation. Drying helps concentrate the flavour.
Trumpet chanterelle (C. tubaeformis) has more in common with the yellow-footed chanterelle than with the golden. It is less charming to look at than other chanterelles having a flattened and flacid stem. If the brown caps are quickly sautéed, the flavour soon makes up for its appearance producing a sweet, nutty taste. In France, it is known as “chanterelle en entonnoir/en tube/en trompette”.
White chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus) is a cousin of the common chanterelle. Its colour is pale white to cream when fresh. After picking, the edges darken and the flesh turns so that it has the appearance of slight bruising in darker shades of orange. The stem of the white chanterelle is often much thicker than that of the other common varieties. The flesh is tender and mild and perfect for chowders and soups, and the flavour is considered to be the best of the American chanterelles. White chanterelles are often an indicator that conditions are favourable for the production of pine mushrooms. They are gathered more on the West coast than in any other part of the American/Canadian continent.
Yellow chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius andC. formosus) are abundant in Pacific Northwest forests and, sometimes, are found in fields containing several hundred. It is considered a favourite of the wild mushrooms and fairly difficult to mistake for any other kind of mushroom, making it ideal for the novice hunter. However, there are similar looking species that are highly toxic. Its bright orangey-yellow colour is often a striking contrast to the forest floor. Ranging in size from a gumdrop to a lily, the fungus is usually described as having an apricot scent, but also that of hazelnuts, cinnamon, and pepper. Small ones retain their colour and form better than larger ones.
Yellow footed chanterelle (yellowfoot) (C. xanthopus) is closely related, but requires different handling. Rather delicate, ocher to brown, it develops an earthy flavour with a hint of thyme, and requires a very quick cooking time. It can be overly variable, with some cooking to a melting texture with a sweet-spicy flavour, while others can be watery and bland. Some can also be dry, while others are stringy.