Chasing chanterelles, a choice seasonal treat

by Krista Munger, Naturalist

Chanterelles are a seasonal treat in this neck of the woods, either for the eye or the table. Their distinctive shape, smell, and bright yellow color make them easy to identify.

The trouble is knowing where to find them.

Skilled mushroom hunters can anticipate where and when each kind of mushroom will be abundant. I am not so skilled, but enjoy planning out the hunt and awating the right conditions of temperature and humidity that cause fruiting of the mushroom above ground.

The larger part of the body is generally located below ground or in the wood of trees. It is a network of thread-like hairs that collects sugars and nutrients for cell growth and occasionally sends up a “fruit” laden with spores for reproduction. We can pick (and eat) these growths sustainably as long as we get them before the insects and animals do.

Some types of mushrooms are poisonous and a few are dangerously so, but many more are edible. All species of chanterelles are considered to be choice and are excellent served with eggs.

In midsummer, I begin checking locations where I have seen chanterelles before and search new areas when the timing and trees are right. They are generally found in forests that are dominated by oak, and will appear in the same location year after year. However, they are difficult to establish at home.

Like the ladyslipper orchid, chanterelles live in a symbiotic relationship between the tree roots and mycorrihaze of the fungus underground. Enjoy the hunt and good luck finding a patch.

Fungus of all ages are invited to learn more on a mushroom walk sponsored by the Lewisboro Land Trust, which I will lead on Sunday, Sept. 29, at Brownwell Preserve, from noon to 2 p.m. The preserve is located on Route 138 in Golden Bridge at the end of Harriet Lane.