Chanterelle mushrooms are popular edible mushrooms that are typically colored gold or yellow 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 forest floor. (Think the Pacific Northwest corridor of Oregon and Washington.) Famed for their gorgeous golden-yellow color and slightly peppery taste paired with a hearty texture, chanterelles emit a fruity aroma, very similar to that of apricots. Let’s get to know more about this golden gem of a fungi, shall we?
A Brief History of Chanterelle Mushrooms
While chanterelles have been eaten for centuries, they became notably recognized and common in palace kitchens during the rise of classic French cuisine and culinary arts during the 18th century. The mushrooms remained popular among noblemen, and the Swedish mycologist Elias Fries even deemed the chanterelle, “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. Chanterelles include:
- Yellow foot, or winter mushroom (Craterellus tubaeformis)
- White chanterelles (Cantharellus subalbidus)
- Black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides)
- Pig’s ears (Gomphus clavatus)
- Blue chanterelles (Polyozellus multiplex)
Chanterelles can be many different hues, 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!
Cantharellus cibarius, the species of golden chanterelle mushrooms, 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.
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, but try it yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below!
Chanterelle season (late-spring/mid-summer to early fall) 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 your local forest 2 to 3 days after heavy rainfall.
Foraging for chanterelles is quite common and can be a lot of fun! However, before you embark on any foraging trips, be aware that picking the wrong kind of mushroom could result in dangerous repercussions. This is why it’s critical that every mushroom forager bring at least two pocket guides along for identification purposes. Even better, forage with a group familiar with the mushrooms and their fake iterations.
There are several poisonous look-alikes, including jack-o-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus olearius, Omphalotus illudens, Omphalotus olivascens) and the false chanterelle mushroom (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), 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 false gills, which are broad, wrinkled 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 but instead have true gills that are knife-like and run down the stem. 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. Some sources claim false chanterelles are too bitter to taste good, but aren’t poisonous, while others claim that the look-alike can cause mild to severe digestive upset. False chanterelles have no smell.
While chanterelles are 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, beta-carotene, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine. They also contain decent levels of potassium, selenium, and copper. Because of the protein found in mushrooms of all kinds, including the chanterelles, mushrooms are an excellent meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans. Apart from potent antioxidants and muscle-building protein, chanterelle mushrooms deliver other noteworthy health benefits.
Chanterelles and Brain Health
Chanterelle mushrooms are fantastic at providing essential nutrients to help regulate brain health as well as other functions within the body. 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.
Chanterelles and Diabetes
One cup of chanterelle mushrooms contains almost 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient that aids in the treatment and maintenance of patients with type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D helps reduce complications that arise from diabetes and acts as a preventative. Research also shows that vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation within the body.
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 niacin-rich foods help to address complications of the disease and in some cases may prevent additional flare-ups.
When they’re in season, it’s relatively easy to find fresh 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, most mushrooms should be cooked before eating, and the 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.
Got a hankering for chanterelles but it’s not the season? No worries. Purchase a pack of dried chanterelles and then crush them into a flour or use them to season your favorite risottos and stews.
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 delectable in pasta, cream sauces, paired with white wine, cured meats or cheeses, or roasted with other vegetables like onions and garlic. Chanterelle risotto is another fantastic way to enjoy these delicious mushrooms. So eat up!