Monday, October 29, 2012

Chanterelle Hunt

October in the Pacific Northwest means the beginning of Fall rains and first appearance of savory chanterelle mushrooms. A mushroom hunt is a great way to spend a day being outdoors in fresh mountain air while gathering a fresh and tasty addition for your dinner. Chanterelle’s are a versatile mushroom and can be added to virtually any meal.  My personal favorite is a breakfast of Chanterelles sautéed in butter and added to eggs with a dash of fresh chopped parsley. They also work well on top of meat dishes like steak or pasta and also make a mouthwatering soup. 

Ready to try this on your own?

When to look:
Chanterelle growth is very weather dependent. The best time to start your search is after three inches of rain has fallen before the Chanterelles begin to appear. It is best to wait at least a week or two after the first storms have passed. The most favorable conditions are a large storm with a few weeks of cloudy and light rain fall. Too much rain and the Chanterelles become mushy and conditions that are too dry shorten the harvest season. 

Where to look:
The ideal place to find Chanterelle’s are in Doug Fir forests with south facing slopes. The forest floor where they like to grow is predominantly is composed of fir needles and the ground is undisturbed. Chanterelles can be found in forests that have predominantly one type of tree, like the Doug Fir.

What to Bring:
A knife for cutting the mushroom, a bag (preferably mesh so the mushroom can breathe), and good hiking shoes. Chanterelles are found in forests during the rainy season and it is best to wear warm, rain resistant gear to stay dry and comfortable on your hunt! Store them in paper bags after rinsing them when you get home.

What to watch out for:
Lookalikes. There are many types of mushrooms, like Jack-O-Lantern’s and Boletus, that appear very similar to Chanterelle mushrooms. The ones I search for here in Northwest are the Pacific Golden Chanterelle which are usually a dull or bright yellow color and have a flute like top with wavy, uneven ends. The defining characteristic of a Chanterelle are the forking ridges underneath the cap. It is recommended that you 100% identify the mushroom you are picking before you eat it. If you aren’t sure, don’t pick it. I recommend going with an experienced local expert or friend who can help you especially on the first try.
And remember, don’t give up if you don’t find them the first time! Scout other locations or try again when weather conditions are more ideal.

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