The genus Cantharellus contains many species that are known generally as chanterelles, although commonly the name refers to the most famous species Cantharellus cibarius. This is the golden chanterelle which is shaped like a funnel (2-12 cm in diameter) and can be found all over the world - in Europe, North America (where the Pacific golden chanterelle is the state mushroom of Oregon), North Africa, Asia and Australia. The golden chanterelle is one of the most recognized edible mushrooms, famous for its delicious and exquisite taste.
The golden chanterelle (C. cibarius) is common in woods in summer and autumn. Cantharellus is a mycorrhizal edible mushrooms, and forms symbiotic associations with hardwoods and conifer trees, where they tend to grow in the same spot year after year. The funnel-shaped cap is orange or yellow, but generally egg-yellow, with paler flesh and is quite meaty. It has forking gills on the underside, running all the way down its stalk, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. The gills are interconnected and forked near the edge of the cap. Unlike most mushrooms with thin straight gills under the cap, the chanterelle has rounded, shallow and widely spaced ridges. The pale pinkish-buff spores are produced in narrow folds. It has a faint fragrant fruity smell reminiscent of apricots or peaches, and a mildly peppery taste, and is considered an excellent food mushroom. Its taste varies widely – from delicate to fairly intense. The chanterelle is a good source of vitamins A and D and makes a contribution to the intake of the vitamin B complex. In Europe it is known by many names, including Pfifferling (German), and girolle (Italian). The girolle is a variant of C. cibarius with a thicker stalk and stronger flavor.
Caution is required when identifying chanterelles for eating as there are look-alikes that either taste poor or can make you very ill:
The False chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) has finer, more orange gills and a darker cap. Although edible, it is a culinary disappointment.
The Jack O'Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) and its sister species (Omphalotus olivascens) are very similar in appearance to chanterelles and will make you very sick, although they are not lethal. Unlike chanterelles they have true gills (not forked or divided) that are thinner, have distinct crowns, and generally do not reach up to the edge. Additionally, the Jack-O-Lantern mushroom is bioluminescent and it tends to grow in clumps on trees – NOT under trees, like the chanterelle.
Chefs love the chanterelle because of its cooking versatility. Chanterelles can be added as an ingredient to most dishes, and in general go well with eggs, curry, chicken, pork, fish, beef and veal, can be used as toppings on pizzas, be stewed, marinated, sautéed in olive oil, or used as filling for stuffed crêpes. Select specimens that have a fragrant odor, apricot color, with no slimy, dark or decaying parts, and gills that are widely spaced. Chanterelles require cleaning before cooking because dirt tends to be found in the forked gills and crevices. It is best to use a soft toothbrush or nylon mushroom brush for cleaning. It may help to do so under slowly running water, but don’t soak them and be sure to drain well as the water will take away flavor. Once cleaned keep them in waxed paper of a paper bag in the refrigerator until cooking time. They can last 7-10 days in the refrigerator, although chanterelles are best eaten fresh
Chanterelles are rather firm-fleshed and meaty and therefore need cooking for longer than most mushrooms. The peppery taste combined with the meaty and chewy texture is ideal for cooking. Be sure to cook in large chunks to maximize flavor.
Recipe for Chanterelles with bacon and new potatoes.
- Approx 1.5 Kg clean chanterelles
- 200g new potatoes
- 150g bacon
- 100g butter
Boil new potatoes for 15-20 minutes until cooked. In another pan saute the chanterelles in 25g of the butter for 5 minutes and then drain off the liquid. Fry bacon strips in the remaining butter until it starts to brown and then add in the mushrooms and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Now add in the new potatoes and cook together for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to season, and garnish with parsley....what a great taste of mushroom !