Illinois hunting and fishing

Chanterelles popping across Illinois

July 13, 2009 at 04:36 PM

Chanterelles are “in full flush” down in southern Illinois.

So says photographer and outdoors enthusiast Gretchen Steele of Coulterville, who provided the photos that accompany this entry.

Last Friday Steele and Adam Rutkowski collected several chanterelles.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Writes Steele:

“These were all picked on the Randolph/Washington County line area. All of the dreadful rain and wet soggy ground that has been such a trial for the farmers is really starting to pop some great summer summer mushroom flushes! I’ve attached an image of Adam Rutkowski while he’s picking a few, some close up images of the chanterelles themselves, and just for fun to show you - a photo of our haul yesterday morning. We got those in less than an hour and in most cases less than 20 feet from the trail. Many growing right along the trail. Probably 2/3 of what we were picking were the “smooth variey”  - Cantharellus lateritius. But yeegads is it ever a buggy mess back in the damp bottoms!”

I hate to admit this, but I was not sure what she was talking about. I knew it was some sort of a fungus. But I had no idea what they looked like, how to find them or when.

Fortunately, Gretchen supplied photos to go with her e-mail.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Illinois hunting and fishing

To learn more, I visited several Web sites. Here is a passage from “Wild About Mushrooms, The Cookbook of the Mycological Society of San Francisco”

This pleasantly aromatic fleshy wild mushroom shines like an exotic golden flower when seen from a distance against the drab autumn forest background. Also known as “golden chanterelle” and “egg mushroom,” it has a magical appeal for most culinary experts in Europe, United States, and Asia. But all chanterelles are not alike. European and Asian forms are usually about the size of a thumb. In the eastern United States they are the size of a fist. But, ah, in the west they can be as large as two hand spans—from little finger to little finger. Chanterelles weighing as much as two pounds are not uncommon.
Chanterelle—Click for larger image

Europeans and easterners claim that their varieties are tastier than those from the West Coast and suggest that flavor is more important than thumb size. It has been a rewarding experience to try to resolve this argument. The reader may happily experiment with such savory adventures as are suggested in this book to discover the truth.

Chanterelles seem to be worth their weight in gold. They are golden looking, golden tasting, and golden priced. The cap is fleshy, with wavy, rounded cap margins tapering downward to meet the stem. The gills are not the usual thin straight panels hanging from the lower surface of the cap, as we see in the common store mushroom. Instead, the ridges are rounded, blunt, shallow, and widely spaced. At the edge of the cap they are forked and interconnected. The chanterelle’s aroma is variously described as apricot- or peachlike. It is unmistakably different and identifiable.

Chanterelles will reappear in the same places year after year if carefully harvested so as not to disturb the ground in which the mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom) grows. There are yearly variations—some years more mushrooms, some less. They fruit from September to February on the West Coast and almost all summer in the east, sometimes coming up in several flushes. We think of them as promiscuous in their plant relationships, because we have found their mycelial threads intertwined with the roots of hardwood trees, conifers, shrubs, and bushes. They enjoy deep, old leaf litter. Chanterelles are seldom invaded by insects. And forest animals do not share our interest in them as food.

For more information on chanterelles, here is another Web site.