Chanterelles, after truffles and morels, are among the most sought-after of wild edible mushrooms. I have seen them for sale at Whole Pocketbook for $50 a pound. I have seen them used on Iron Chef. And I’ve seen them growing in Western Mass—on moist but not swampy ground, in deep shade, almost exclusively within 20 yards of a stream or pool. They appear starting in late June and are gone by the end of September, and by virtue of their creamy, pale orange color, I’ve been noticing them in the woods ever since I moved here. I had not, until this summer, dared to pick any myself, because they have a vomit-inducing near look-alike, the Jack o’Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olearius.
The differences between the two, I have finally learned sufficient to be confident of not picking the wrong one, are as follows. Chanterelles have forking gills, Jack o’Lanterns don’t. Jack o’Lanterns are likely to be found growing on tree trunks, stumps, and partly-buried roots. Chanterelles are more likely to appear on open ground. And Jack o’Lantern gills, or so I am told, glow in the dark.
So I picked some, finally. And ate them. When raw, they are lemony at first, with a peppery/bitter finish. Once cooked, they are milder, earthy. One of the things for which they are so prized is their firm texture, which allows them to stand up better to more robust compliments.
I put them on a pizza:
Note: Please don’t take the above as any kind of justification for going out and picking mushrooms without a guidebook or guide. I will not be responsible if you poison yourself.