Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) mushrooms are important edible mushrooms that are typically gold or yellow in color and are often found growing wild near hardwood trees such as oaks and conifers. They’ve been harvested for centuries from forests all over the world and prefer a damp, but not necessarily marshy ground. (Think the northwestern corridor of Oregon and Washington.)
They are easily some of the most popular fungi, famed for their gorgeous golden-yellow color and slightly peppery taste paired with a hearty texture. They emit a fruity aroma as well, very similar to that of apricots.
A Brief History of Chanterelle Mushrooms
While chanterelles have been eaten for centuries, they became notably recognized during the rise of classic French cuisine and culinary arts during the 18th century when they became common in palace kitchens. The mushrooms remained popular among noblemen, and the Swedish mycologist Elias Fries even deemed the chanterelle as, “One of the most important and best edible mushrooms.”
Fun Facts About the Chanterelle Mushroom
Chanterelle is a mycorrhizal mushroom, which means they develop a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow near. Each helps the other grow. They’re most commonly found around oaks, maple, beech, birch, and poplar trees.
Cantharellus cibarius is derived from the Latin Cantharus which means drinking vessel (like a chalice or a bowl). The resemblance of the chanterelle to that of a tiny drinking goblet is striking.
Chanterelles can be many different hues ranging from bright red to dark blue or even black! The most common are the golden chanterelles which vary in color from orange to yellow. One golden chanterelle can grow to be a few pounds or more!
The chanterelle mushroom has a funnel-shaped cap and a typical diameter of up to 10 centimeters. Chanterelles are described as having a mild-peppery taste.
While it’s not recommended to ever forage for your mushrooms, foraging for chanterelles is both quite common and can be a lot of fun! However, before you embark on any foraging trips, it’s essential to note that picking the wrong kind of mushroom could result in dangerous repercussions. This is why it’s critical that you bring at least two pocket guides with you to help you identify the mushroom…or to forage with a group familiar with the mushrooms and their fake iterations.
Chanterelle season is highly anticipated, and often harvesting groups will depart with the specific goal of finding the delicious wild mushrooms. Depending on where you live, chanterelles can pop up in the forests near you two to three days after heavy rainfall.
There are several look-alikes, including the jack-o-lantern mushroom and the false chanterelle mushroom, both of which can cause adverse reactions in some people.
A true chanterelle mushroom does not have gills under the mushroom head. Instead, it has broad ridges that fork periodically. While a jack-o-lantern’s look is very similar in color and size, they do not have forks in their ridges and instead are just one long line. When you cut the jack-o-lantern, it is orange on the inside. The Chanterelle is more of a cream color. Also, jack-o-lantern’s glow in the dark (hence the name)!
Another look-alike is the false chanterelle mushroom, which does have forks in the ridges underneath the mushroom head, but the ridges are much deeper and more narrow, similar to what you might find on a store-bought button mushroom. False chanterelles have no smell.
While they are said to be delicious, both jack-o-lanterns and false chanterelles can prove toxic to some people and should be avoided. This is one of the many reasons why it’s extra important to consult with a guide to identify any wild-grown mushrooms. Or better yet, buy them fresh from a specialty store, a local farmers market, or a grocery store that carries them when in season.
Chanterelle Health Benefits
Chanterelles are abundant in many of the same nutrients as other mushrooms, including a surprising level of protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine. Chanterelles also contain decent levels of potassium, selenium, and copper.
Antioxidant Properties of Chanterelle’s
According to the book, Selenium, Its Molecular Biology and Role in Human Health, selenium is a powerful antioxidant and has been linked to cancer prevention and protection against heart disease and mental decline. Selenium is typically found in foods with a high amount of protein, usually lean meats, beans, and fish. Because of the protein found in mushrooms of all kinds, including the chanterelles, mushrooms are an excellent meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
Chanterelles and Brain Health
Iron is believed to help contribute to the development and maintenance of a healthy brain. A serving of chanterelle mushrooms contains about 23% of the daily recommended value of iron. Iron assists in many other metabolic functions, including transporting oxygen through the bloodstream. Again, as a meat alternative, chanterelle mushrooms are fantastic at providing essential nutrients to help regulate brain health as well as other functions within the body.
Chanterelles and Diabetes
Chanterelle is rich in vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient to aid in the treatment and maintenance of patients with type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D aids in the reduction of complications that arise from diabetes and acts as a preventative. Research also recommends that vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation within the body.
One cup of chanterelle mushrooms contains almost 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D, making it an excellent alternative food source to acquire the health benefits of this essential vitamin.
Chanterelles and Skin Health
Chanterelles are also rich in vitamin B3 (known as niacinamide), which is often recommended and used as a natural treatment to promote healthy skin and even clear acne when applied topically. Some people may take niacin or B vitamin supplements to support these same health benefits. However, having a fresh food source can be a more optimal way of promoting absorption of these essential nutrients.
According to this article in Jama Dermatology, niacin has been shown to reduce skin inflammation, irritation, redness, and more. For example, the skin disease bullous pemphigoid occurs mostly in older patients and in some cases as a result of intense inflammation. Research shows that patients who introduce niacin-rich foods help to address complications of the disease and in some cases may prevent additional flare-ups.
How to Cook Chanterelle Mushrooms
When they’re in season, it’s relatively easy to find chanterelles at your local market. As foraging for any mushroom does come with some risk, it’s recommended to purchase from a reputable seller.
That being said, all mushrooms should generally be cooked before eating, and chanterelle is no exception. Chanterelles are rather versatile when it comes to meal preparation. They can be added to soups or stews for a slightly meaty/hearty texture and subtle peppery flavor burst.
However, they may be their most delicious when they are merely chopped and sautéed along with sliced shallots in extra virgin olive oil or butter with a little salt and pepper.
Chanterelle mushrooms are also delicious in pasta, cream sauces, paired with cured meats or cheeses, or roasted with other vegetables including onions and garlic. Chanterelle risotto is another fantastic way to enjoy these delicious mushrooms.