Enchanting Chanterelles

First One of the Year!
Its been a hot, wet and humid summer so far in East Tennessee! We had three solid weeks of rain. While it’s not so good for the kids on summer vacation, it’s great for mushroom lovers. The heat and rain make perfect conditions for Chanterelle!
Chanterelle are one of the most prized mushrooms among kitchens everywhere. Chefs love them, and although you can buy them dried in a market, finding them on your own is so much more fun!
The Chanterelle season is a fairly long one. It can start as early as May and lasts until late fall. What I have found (at least in this area) is once temperatures get over 85, and after the first really great rain (about a good 4-7 days), is when you can start looking. They love the hot, humid weather! Chanterelle typically grow in groups, so if you spot one, be sure to look around the area for more.
With its bright yellow to orange hue, there is almost no mistaking this beauty. Its not a true gilled mushroom and with each of the species the underside changes slightly. It could be smooth, wrinkled, or have vein-like gills. Luckily all varieties of Chanterelle are edible, so unless you have an allergy, they will all be safe to eat. However, that being said, they do have one look-a-like that is poisonous.
Jack-O-Lanterns on a tree base
 The brightly colored Jack-o-Lantern mushroom can cause extreme stomach upset, and should be avoided. They can be distinguished from the chanterelle in a few ways. Chanterelle give off a slight smell of apricots, which can help with identification. The cap is not as ‘flowered’ as a chanterelle is, but rather smooth and lacks the ‘trumpet’ shape chanterelle are known for. The gills are an actual gill, and do not flow flush with the stalk, and also lack the vein-like appearance in between each gill.

Glowing in the Dark!!
Did I mention Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms glow in the dark?! The glow is caused by the presence of luciferases, which is a bioluminescent, similar to that found in fireflies. If you take this mushroom into a dark closet and let your eyes adjust, you will see the faint, eerie green glow coming from its gills. Jack’s also tend to grow from or on the base of trees in large clusters, whereas chanterelle will grow straight from the ground with just one or two mushrooms together (much like morels).

Before I actually found my first chanterelle I was hoping every bright, upturned mushroom I found was one. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for at first, but once I found an actual chanterelle, there was no mistaking it for anything else. Once you find them you will know right away!

When I was out this past week I was trying to take note of where I found each one. What trees did they grow around, what type of soil, and moisture. I decided they really don’t have a specific rhythm or reason to where they grow. Under Ash, Pine, Oak, Sycamore...they were all over! Very moist, rich soil with good leave coverage is what they prefer, so deep woods are a great place to start looking!
Once you find a nice good harvest of them, head home and start cooking! Make sure you clean them well, and check for bugs. The woodsy, light flavor of this mushroom makes it go well in any meal you would use mushrooms in. They are good in a refrigerator for a few days, or if you would like to keep them for later use, they can be dehydrated. Dehydrating will make for a richer flavor, but the texture gets a bit chewy. The dehydrated chanterelle are usually best for soups and stews. You can also cook and freeze them fairly well, lasting up to about a year. I look forward to harvesting this mushroom for the next few months. So get out there and look around!
Happy Hunting!

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