Mushroom Foraging: Hunting for Chanterelles

Photo by Fabian Wiktor: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-mushrooms-3466359/

Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius)
In Irish: cantarnaid

If you’re a fan of foraging food in Ireland this site is for you. This time we’re in the woods and foraging for mushrooms, specifically beautiful chanterelles. I can’t get enough of them!

Chanterelles

This post focuses on Cantharellus cibarius (the yellow chanterelles) rather than Craterellus tubaeformis (the winter chanterelles). Both are edible!

Where to find chanterelles

In Ireland, chanterelle mushrooms can be found in mixed woodlands, often favouring areas with well-drained, mossy soil.

They thrive in the presence of certain types of trees, forming symbiotic relationships with species such as oak, birch, beech, and pine. Chanterelles often appear in groups on the forest floor, especially in areas with dappled sunlight and minimal undergrowth.

Photo by Jelena Juhnevica

Foraging is most successful from late summer to early autumn, particularly after periods of rainfall which create the moist conditions these mushrooms prefer. Key locations include established woodlands and forests across Ireland, where the natural habitat supports their growth.

How to identify chanterelles

Chanterelles occasionally grow in clusters typically in about four or five groupings but mostly grow as individuals.

Chanterelles start round and are more conical. However as they mature they branch off into many different shapes, almost like flowers. The edges also when mature, look like they’re fraying. The gills are false gills on the chanterelle. They are more like veins and are not tightly packed. They also tend to fork at the cap.

How to identify chanterelles

Image by Åsa K from Pixabay

When you pull the chanterelle apart you will notice how white it is inside. If you pull it further apart it kind-of resembles string cheese! When smelling, it distinctly smells both fruity and savoury at the same time.

Lookalikes

Chanterelles have several lookalikes that foragers should be cautious of. Notable among these is the False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), which is typically more orange and has true gills rather than false gills like the actual chanterelle. It won’t have the fruity smell of a chanterelle.

The false chanterelle may also have a darker orange spot in the centre, whereas a chanterelle will be either the same colour all around the top or slightly paler. If it’s older it may not have the spot, but if you look underneath, it will be darker in colour.

Another indicator is if you cut it in half or pull it apart, it won’t be fully white but will have streaks of yellow colour in it or be quite orange inside. The gills go all the way up to the cap and all the way down to the stem.

It was eaten in the past but is considered to be a mildly toxic mushroom.

Then there’s the Jack-o’-Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius), which is more vividly orange and glows faintly in the dark. The medium to large-sized Jack-o’-Lantern mushroom is toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.

Omphalotus olearius is a toxic orange-gilled mushroom that can easily be mistaken for chanterelles by the untrained eye. This mushroom is particularly notable for its bioluminescent properties, glowing faintly in the dark.

Found in woodland areas across Europe, it typically grows on decaying stumps, buried roots, or at the base of hardwood trees. Bare this in mind as the wood might not be fully visible at first glance. Chanterelles do not grow on wood, nor do they have an association with dead trees.

It is completely orange when you pull it apart, unlike chanterelles which are white inside. Unlike the string-cheese-like texture of a chanterelle, the jack o’lantern does not have this texture. It grows in dense clusters, in upwards to 12 tapered at the base. It’s rare to find one on its own.

Jack o’lanterns doesn’t have a distinct smell apart from a mushroom-y one.

Proper identification is crucial. For actual chanterelles, focus on the distinctive forked ridges, fruity smell, and solid, meaty stem to avoid these potentially harmful doppelgängers.

How to harvest this mushroom

To harvest, gently twist or cut the mushrooms at the base of the stem using a small knife. Avoid pulling them out. Brushing off any dirt and debris in the field is also important to keep your harvest clean. You can use a small soft brush for this. Carry your mushrooms in a breathable basket or mesh bag to allow spores to disperse as you move, supporting future growth in the area!

Health Benefits of Chanterelles

Chanterelles are packed with health-boosting compounds, including polysaccharides, fatty acids, phenolic acid compounds, and beta-glucans that function as gut prebiotics. They also contain about fifteen different amino acids. Additionally, chanterelle mushrooms are a rich source of several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D and beta-carotene.

Source: WebMD

How to eat

You must cook them! Clean them not in water but by gently rubbing dirt from them using a paper towel. If you wash them, they will just end up slimy.

Chanterelles are quite simple to cook and my favourite way is to sautée them on a hot dry pan to start. Dry sautéeing also removes any excess moisture from mushrooms and thus results in a firm but deliciously chewy texture.

Recipe: Dry Sautéed Chanterelles

Ingredients

  • 200 – 250g chanterelles
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme

Method

  1. Prepare to heat the pan/skillet in a medium-high heat.
  2. Spread the mushrooms out in the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the sea salt over the mushrooms.
  4. Sautée the mushrooms, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent them from sticking. You want the mushrooms to release their liquid.
  5. Keep cooking until all of the liquid has evaporated!
  6. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter, along with the sliced garlic, and thyme.
  7. Cook until the chanterelles are golden brown.

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