Foraging for Chanterelles

DAY 87 - Chanterelle Occupation of Georgia - Daylight scarce. Boots encrusted. Jeans mildewed. Beard green. Fridge full. Freezer won't close. Body weary. I find myself powerless. I can't stop. Mushrooms encroach.

It's been raining for days and days and weeks and I can't stay out of the woods. I slog through mud in search of spilled gold. It's everywhere. I bring it home by the half-bushel basket - ten, twenty, thirty pounds at a time. Daily. I can't wait to see the shine of gratitude in Cindy's eyes as I lay bare my quarry. Forty-five minutes and an easy hike: a small price for feeling mighty. More mushrooms. More mushrooms. More mushrooms. Bright appreciation fades to dull apathy. More mushrooms. Her eyes descend into woeful darkness.

Please stop praying for rain
Spotted on the way home from a
soggy chanterelle hunt last year.

I wrote that a year ago during the Summer of Chanterelles when chanterelle foraging turned to crisis. It was a struggle to stay ahead of the onslaught and I abandoned my blog post. All available refrigerator space was appropriated to chanterelles queued for processing. More mushrooms waited in baskets and bags scattered around the house. Our Toyota Tundra dehydrator took on even more of the overflow. It was triage and we couldn't possibly save them all.

 

Most years, the chanties are not so pervasive, although even in a dearth of wet, we're sure to get at least a few pounds just down the hill from the house. This season, I found the first chanterelle at the beginning of June, which is about on schedule, but they really just started coming on a couple of weeks ago (early to mid-July) when the steady rains started.

Identification

Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), or "golden chanterelles," are probably the most well known wild mushrooms. They're sought after by chefs and foodies due to their delicate flavor, which some describe as "mildly peppery." Ranging in color from yellow to deep orange, golden chanterelles are easy to spot in the summer forest. They can be as large as 5 inches in diameter, but 2 inches is closer to average. The cap is wavy and generally funnel shaped. Their false gills appear as wrinkles that are forked and wavy with blunt edges and run down the stem, the same color as the rest of the chanterelle. Chanterelles also have a distinct fruity apricot-like aroma.

They are sometimes confused with Jack O' Lantern mushrooms, which are poisonous but not known to be lethal. The Jack O' Lantern usually grows in clumps on wood (not from soil like chanterelles) and has true unforked gills.

Where to Find Chanterelles

Golden chanterelle
Golden chanterelle--easily identified
by their forked and wavy false gills.

Chanterelles generally occur from late spring through late summer or early fall here in North Georgia. They love moisture, shade and lots of organic matter. Drenching rain followed by a couple of days of stifling heat is the natural sauna necessary to spawn a good bloom.

Chanterelles largely grow near hardwoods like maple, poplar, and oak but it's not uncommon to find them around white pines. I've seen a few online sources advising foragers not to waste time searching near blueberries. They say the two can't coexist. I've found this to be completely false. A stand of blueberry in the dappled shade of hardwood canopy can be very productive. Other tree species associated with chanterelles include birch, hemlock, and bay.

Look for chanterelles close to streams and other low lying damp areas. They tend to pop up in the path of runoff or drainage where surface water carries their spores downhill. After locating a few, a quick search up and downhill is generally a good bet for finding more. 

How to Harvest Chanterelles

Once you've found your chanty honey-hole, tread lightly and carry a sharp knife. Or scissors. Cutting wild mushrooms to harvest serves two purposes. First, it helps keep dirt out of your harvest basket and away from your bounty. Second, you'll have a better chance of getting more chanterelles later by leaving the base intact in the soil.

Get a mushroom knife with cleaning brush from Amazon

Having a careful step will ensure that you don't unnecessarily trample and disrupt the mycelium that spawns new growth.

I usually leave the smaller chanterelles behind - especially if there's a good chance of rain within a week or so. A revisit after a thorough soaking will almost always result in much bigger chanterelles provided they're in good shape when you find them the first time. Otherwise, checking an area more than once every couple weeks is probably a waste of time. 

Half-bushel baskets seem to be the perfect size for carrying chanterelles out of the woods. They're big enough to comfortably walk with a good haul of mushrooms - several pounds. And they're small enough that your chanterelles won't be piled so high that they get crushed.

And don't bother with overly dirty chanterelles. Leaf litter and organic matter are fine but dirt and grit can be nearly impossible to remove.

How to Process Chanterelles

Chanterelle torn in half
For a thorough cleaning, tear chanterelles
in half and scrape away any
embedded dirt with a toothbrush.

The first step in processing chanterelles, or any wild mushroom, is cleaning. We've found that a toothbrush works best. You'll need to pull them apart for a good cleaning. Grit can work it's way into the stem as the mushroom grows. Unless you split the stem to clean away any internal dirt, you'll likely get an unpleasant, cavity-causing bite of sand.

There are a few "grades" of dirtiness. Perfectly clean? Perfect. A little dirt or grit? Acceptable and fairly easily remedied with a toothbrush. A fair amount of dirt? Acceptable for soup stock but not much else. If you find yourself scraping away half of the stem to get rid of dirt, it's not worth the effort and you'll probably never get it clean. The best thing to do in this case is make stock and strain with a coffee filter. 

Once you've cleaned your harvest, use them right away, dry for storage, or saute in butter and freeze (our favorite method as it preserves the most flavor). But chanterelles are best when fresh and will last about ten days in a paper bag - not plastic - in the fridge.

Cooking & Eating

Chanterelles are great in soups, stews, and sauces and pair well with the following wines, foods, and herbs:

  • light red wine such as pinot noir or a dry white wine when preparing a light dish such as a cream sauce on pasta
  • heavier red wine such as cabernet or our native norton when preparing a red meat dish
  • venison and other wild game
  • chicken
  • pork
  • fish
  • beef
  • veal
  • eggs
  • garlic
  • thyme
  • tarragon
  • chervil
  • chives
  • onions
  • ramps
  • shallots

Take a look at our chanterelle recipes for ideas on cooking them.

Comments

gail harris's picture

Chanterelles: do these mushrooms grow down in south west Georgia, I would love to try them

Eric Orr's picture

Hi Gail,

I've never heard of them growing farther south than Atlanta but I could be wrong.

Chris's picture

Some have been found in N. Florida-Yum!

Tim's picture

We're south of Atlanta here in Opelika, Alabama and I get a nice little patch popping up in the back yard every year.

Inge 's picture

Tim we are also in Opelika. When do you get your patch? Also, do we have porcini mushrooms around here?

Britton's picture

Yes, Gail. They do grow in Southwest Georgia. I'm in Decatur county, just north of the Florida line and find them here every late spring/early summer. Happy hunting!

William's picture

I think I found some chanterelle mushrooms but I live in Collins Ms could I be mistaking

Eric Orr's picture

They do grow in MS so there's a good chance that's what you found.

matt's picture

Ive found chanterelles as far south as central Florida and as far north as northern Virginia. i have a video of me finding them last month in Florida. If you want to see search "wipsi shrooms" for my youtube channel.

Teri's picture

They grow all over Vancouver Island and surrounding islands, quite far north as well, on the Pacific Ocean in Canada, even past the 49th parrallel.

Eric 's picture

I live in Athens Georgia and I'll never forget the summer of 2013. We had so much rain! I would go into the woods and it looked as if someone had painted the forest floor yellow. Chanties grew everywhere!!! If someone were to have asked me to buy 5000 pounds of Chanterelles I would have told them that it wouldn't be a problem. It could have easily been done in a day with a few people to help.

kat's picture

I live in Athens too! I'm just learning about chanterelle foraging and found a very small crop in my yard. If you ever want to get together and go on a hunt, get in touch!!!

Rick Carroll's picture

They grow well south of the Georgia line here in North Florida. The recent rain have painted my woods golden! Some years better than others. If what I'm finding now is any indication of what's to come; I can hardly wait!

Jared Wilkins's picture

I am from Eastern Oklahoma and think I have found a really large bed of several acres on my property. I am convinced they are Chanterelles in every way I can identify except mine have no gills at all. The underside of the cap having the texture of Hen Of the Woods. I sautéed up a couple and they were really good with a med to strong smoky flavor. No ill affects noticed. The tops of the plants are half dollar size and the stems are pencil size. Is the lack of gills ringing a warning bell with anyone?

Justina's picture

I find them here in NJ and some of my patches that produce chanterelles are smooth chants ( no gills at all). Also you can post a picture and report finds on the website morelmushroomhunting.com and he is great to answer any concerns. hope this helps.

Donnie's picture

Jared,
chanterelles have no gills, just raised veins.. like the veins on your arm or wrist..their poisonous look alike the jack o lantern does however.......

Rick Carroll's picture

The lack of "determinate" or obvious gills is a trait of the golden chanterelle mushroom. If there is any doubt ask an experienced gatherer. Look at pictures on the net or watch vids on YouTube. Happy Hunting

Pete's picture

A friend of mine gave me a bunch of chanterelles, but they got wet when it rained. I put them on a towel covered cookie sheet, but they still have a lot of moisture. Are they unuseable?

Eric Orr's picture

They're definitely still useable. Let them dry for a day or so and you could even change the towel out it if it soaks up a lot of moisture. It depends a lot on how much humidity you have in your house. When they're reasonably dry, put them in a paper bag and put in the fridge. If they stay wet too long, they'll start to rot. We just got a bunch of rain-soaked oyster mushrooms and it took a couple of days to dry them to the point of refrigeration, but it was pretty humid in the house at the time.

Pete's picture

Thanks Eric. I will do that.

Scott's picture

I recommend drying them out in a frying pan with some olive oil, a chopped onion, a pinch of salt and garlic for about 15 mins and then store them in your stomach.

paula's picture

Found my first mess (that was the technical term used where I grew up!) in the woods along the run-off paths under oak and poplar. So excited! Must have harvested several pounds. I'm a Hoosier and grew up hunting morels in spring. I've lived in Virginia for 20 years and have only found a handful. Had no idea the bounty that was out there in our steamy summer months. How long will I be able to find them? And I read they will produce more than once in the same area in one season? True? Here's hoping some of smaller ones I left will grow. Really excited to finally have found the chanterelle!

Dar's picture

I plan my trip to the cabin in NW Ontario to coincide with the best time to get Chanterelles which up there is mid-July to mid-August. Believe me they do grow amongst the blueberries. We often come home with both!

Ron 's picture

I just picked two Walmart bags of Chanterelles (about 8 lbs.) along one trail in 'Village at Deaton Creek' in NE Georgia
a week ago. Should have cut them off. Most were 3-5 inches across w 3/8 - 1/2 inch stems.

Washed Them in sink w spray nozzle, cut off dirty bases, cut in half, soaked in salt water 30 minutes, dried on towels, sautéed in butter until moisture was evaporated and mushrooms were golden brown. Ate them hot.!!

Learning as we grow!

Watching for Morels.!

Ramblin Ron

Gray's picture

A friend, who lives in Baldwin County near Mobile, Alabama, just gave me a sackful that he harvested off of his property over the weekend! So they do grow farther south! Now I need recipes for this delicacy!

Mick Cumuze's picture

Live in Athens and just found the honey hole of a lifetime, and not just one but about 8 different spots. Actually, I can find them anywhere now that i know exactly what type of forest anf landscapes to look for. 7/10/17.

Mick Cumuze's picture

Pounds upon pounds of Chanties

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