One of the most popular types of mushroom, learning how to correctly identify chanterelle mushrooms is a vital skill for anyone wishing to forage for their own food.
There are many poisonous false mushroom species that may harm or kill you if you mistakenly harvest and consume them. But don’t let this put you off. With a little practice you can learn to easily identify chanterelle mushrooms.
In addition to following the information laid out in this guide, if you are new to foraging it is advisable that you go for the first time with an experienced mushroom hunter.
An experienced mushroom hunter can help you master the skill of identifying chanterelle mushrooms and show you how to avoid more deadly varieties. An expert also knows your local area and can point you to the best foraging places.
This guide to chanterelle mushrooms is designed to help you easily identify this prized crop. We will also share tips on how to harvest and store your prized crop.
Learning how to identify this mushroom is a useful skill.
What are Chanterelle Mushrooms?
These are an edible species of wild mushrooms that belong to the Cantharellus genus. Typically golden yellow in color you can also find bright red and white varieties.
This edible fungi grows in many parts of the world including Central and North America as well as Africa and Europe.
There is currently some confusion over the classification of many mushroom varieties, including chanterelles.
At the time of writing, mycologists believe that while there are over 20 different types of chanterelle mushrooms present in North America the original Cantharellus cibarius variety is not present.
For this reason I will, during the course of this article, talk about chanterelle mushrooms in general and try to avoid delving too deeply into the nuances of specific varieties.
Typically, chanterelle mushrooms grow in groups on the forest floor. Each variety usually grows close to a specific type of tree or trees.
This type of mushroom grows on the forest floor.
These are one of the most expensive types of mushroom because they are full of flavor and a prized culinary delicacy. Unlike many other types of mushroom, such as Oyster mushrooms they cannot currently be grown commercially.
Additionally, you can not cultivate a crop at home. This means that the only way to obtain this mushroom is to harvest them from the forest floor. If you do want to try growing your own mushroom crop, there are a number of mushroom growing kits that are suitable for beginners.
Finally, chanterelle mushrooms only grow for a few months during the year. This makes them one of the rarer types of edible mushroom and has helped to increase both their value and appeal.
These are a popular culinary ingredient.
When to Forage
Chanterelle mushrooms have a short lived growing season. A heat loving summer mushroom, they typically emerge in mid to late July. The exact date can vary depending on the climate, temperature and amount of rainfall. Crops of this mushroom usually start to emerge once daytime temperatures begin to average over 70 or 80 ℉.
In favorable climates you may be able to find crops growing well into September or early October.
Adding further complexity to the situation, microclimates play a vital role. This means that crops of this mushroom may pop up in one area in mid July but not emerge in a nearby location until late August.
The chanterelle mushroom thrives in wet humid climates and moist ground. After rainfall, it takes a few days for these mushrooms to develop.
After the initial fruiting they continue to grow in spurts for the rest of the growing season, each time sprouting up after rainfall.
Often the best time to go foraging is during mid-summer, around 4 days after your area has experienced significant rain.
The easiest way to know when these fungi are emerging in your area is to get involved with local mushroom foraging groups. As we have already noted, not only is this the safest way to learn how to forage for food, the more experienced members in the group know exactly where and when to look.
This type of mushroom typically grows close to trees.
This type of mushroom is classified as mycorrhizal. This means that each variety grows in conjunction with specific trees. The following are the most commonly found combinations:
- Golden chanterelle mushrooms thrive in conifer forests
- White types (Cantharellus subalbidus) grow alongside Douglas firs and pine trees
- California chanterelles (C. Californicus) grow beneath live oaks trees
- Appalachians (C. appalachiensis) grow in the shadow of oaks and hardwood trees.
Before you go hunting, research which varieties of mushroom are native to your area. This information tells you which trees to look under and helps to make mushroom hunting a lot easier.
While it can be difficult to work out where and when this type of mushroom is going to emerge, the good news is that when they do so, they develop in great numbers.
This type of mushroom often grows in small groups.
How to Identify Chanterelle Mushrooms
There are a number of different features that can help you identify chanterelle mushrooms. When foraging, make sure that your prospective harvest meets all of the following criteria. Harvesting the wrong type of mushroom can be a dangerous, or deadly, mistake.
Chanterelle mushrooms grow solitary in small or large patches. On occasion they may grow together in small groupings, rarely exceeding 3 in number. They do not develop in large, overlapping clumps.
This means that if you find what appears to be a patch of them, upon closer inspection you will notice that each mushroom is growing individually and separate from the others.
This mushroom can range in height from 2 to 4 inches. The cap can measure 1 to 4 inches in diameter. wide.
The smooth cap of this mushroom is a key identification feature.
Chanterelle mushroom caps are smooth. Unlike other varieties the cap is not hairy, wrinkled or pitted.
As they mature the cap of this mushroom develops a distinctive funnel or vase-like shape. The cap can also, but not always, develop a noticeable indent in the center. Some types may remain flat on top. Other varieties develop a slightly round cap.
The stem is fleshy and the same color as the cap. There should be no markings, rings or any other features on the stem. The stem has no bulb around the base.
Breaking off the stem reveals a solid interior. The stems of this type of mushroom are not hollow.
The mushroom flesh is dense and pale yellow or white in color and matches the cap.
Golden types can range in color from a light yellow to a dark golden orange-yellow. The young mushroom is said to look like a golden button or egg yolk on the forest floor. Some types can also develop a faint pink-yellow hue, similar to ripe peaches.
A key feature of chanterelle mushrooms, the cap, stem and gill of the mushroom is the same color.
The entirety of this mushroom is one color.
This mushroom can smell slightly like peaches or apricots. When forming in large groups the aroma can be quite strong and distinctive. An individual mushroom may not be as noticeably aromatic as a group of them.
Snapping the base off encourages the mushroom to emit its distinctive aroma.
All types of mushroom spread through the release of spores. These vary in color depending on the species. Chanterelle mushroom spores are usually white. They may also be light yellow.
Unlike button or Shiitake types of mushroom, this type does not develop true gills. Instead there are lines beneath the cap that resemble gills. However, on closer inspection, you see that they are not true gills but false gills.
False gills are best described as folds or forked ridges in the underside of the cap. They are not easily detached from the stem or cap. Removal usually damages the stem. False gills can look like they are melted onto the mushroom.
Chanterelle false gills run under the cap and a little way down the stem.
Identifying false gills is a key element of learning how to identify this type of mushroom. It can often be the difference between harvesting a safe variety and a toxic mushroom.
As we have already noted, each variety of chanterelle mushroom grows in conjunction with a specific tree or trees. Before you begin hunting, research which of the many varieties grow in your area. Make a note of what trees they grow in conjunction with. When foraging look for the trees before you start to look for fungi.
This type of mushroom grows on the ground. They do not grow on trees, stumps or pieces of wood.
This mushroom grows on the ground, not on pieces of wood.
Chanterelle Mushroom Look-Alikes
Chanterelle mushrooms can easily be confused with both false and jack o’lantern types of mushroom. Neither of these species should be consumed.
Jack o’lanterns contain a toxin named muscarine. This can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea if consumed. The easiest way to tell jack o’lanterns from chanterelle mushrooms is to look at the gills. Unlike chanterelle mushrooms that have false gills, jack o’lanterns have true gills. These true gills are knife-like in appearance, not forked.
Other points of difference are:
- Jack o’lanterns are also more orange-brown than yellow in color
- Jack o’lanterns grow in large overlapping groups,
- Jack o’lanterns grow from rotting wood. They are usually attached to a tree or tree stump. In some cases they may be growing on wood that is buried in the ground.
False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca)
Bittier in flavor, it is thought that this mushroom can also cause digestive problems if ingested.
Like jack o’lanterns the main point of difference between true and false chanterelle mushrooms is the gills. Unlike true types, false types have true gills with forked edges. These look like blades.
The Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca mushroom is a deep orange color. It is not yellow like the true chanterelle. This orange color tends to be darker at the center of the cap, becoming lighter as it reaches the edges. In contrast, true types are one uniform color.
A final point of difference is that unlike the smooth cap of the chanterelle, the false chanterelle has a fuzzy cap.
The young yellow amanita (Amanita flavoconia) mushroom has a slight resemblance to the chanterelle. Native to eastern North America, the yellow amanita has a yellow cap with white or yellow scales. It also has true gills that are white in color and a long stem.
Unlike chanterelles the yellow amanita has a partial veil which develops to become a skirt and a bulbous base.
Do not consume the yellow amanita mushroom. It is very poisonous.
Yellow amanitas can sometimes be falsely identified as chanterelles.
Another mushroom of confusion is the scaly vase (Turbinellus floccosus). Scaly vase tends to grow close to conifer trees in late summer or fall, often emerging at the same time as chanterelles.
The key to telling the two apart is that a scaly vase mushroom is always vase or cone-shaped. Unlike chanterelles, the scaly vase does not develop a cap.
Also known as the wooly chanterelle, the scaly vase is more orange or orange-pink in color than yellow chanterelles. Growing in a vase or trumpet-shape, like chanterelles, the scaly vase has false gills. Here they look like wrinkles or ridges beneath the cap. Scaly vase false gills run down the entire stem.
While in some areas the scaly vase mushroom is considered edible, they can cause gastrointestinal problems. For this reason scaly vases are best avoided.
When you first start foraging for mushroom crops, make sure that you go with a more experienced mushroom hunter. They can help you to master the skill of identifying safe, edible mushroom varieties.
Once you have mastered this skill, in particular how to tell the difference between true and false gills, you will easily be able to tell chanterelle mushrooms apart from their look-alikes.
How to Harvest Chanterelle Mushrooms
Once you have correctly identified your crop of chanterelles, the next step is harvest.
Do not pick the mushroom by hand. This can damage the fragile mycelium. A damaged mycelium can have a detrimental impact on your picking spot for many years.
Instead, use a sharp knife to slice them at the base. The Opinel Mushroom Knife is designed to make harvest as easy as possible. As well as a sharp blade, it also has a built-in brush. This enables you to brush away any dirt before placing the mushroom in your basket.
A fresh mushroom harvest.
Once harvested, clean the mushroom with a damp paper towel, gently rubbing away any visible dirt.
Do not wash your freshly harvested mushroom crop. Washing can cause them to absorb a significant amount of moisture, harming both their quality and flavor.
How to Store Chanterelle Mushrooms
Best used as soon after harvest as possible, fresh chanterelles can be stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also wrap them in some newspaper.
Do not store your mushroom harvest in a plastic bag. This traps moisture, leading to your harvest quickly decaying.
If you are storing your harvest in a LocknLock Airtight Container add some paper towels in as well. These absorb excess moisture, helping to preserve your harvest for longer.
Raw chanterelles should not be frozen. Upon defrosting they become soggy and unappealing. Cooked chanterelles freeze better.
For longer term storage, you can dehydrate chanterelles and store in a glass jar. Dehydration is a reliable option for preserving many fruits and vegetables for an extended period of time. Jalapeno peppers, lavender and strawberries can all be dehydrated for long term storage.
Many people like to dehydrate their mushroom crop because they believe that it helps to enhance the flavor. Dried chanterelles can be used to flavor risottos and soups. They can also be fried in butter and oil or baked into a casserole.
While you can eat chanterelles raw, it is not recommended. Any type of wild mushroom should be cooked before consuming. This prevents gastrointestinal problems.
This is one of the most popular mushrooms.
While other types of mushroom are considered amongst the easiest to grow vegetables, you can not cultivate chanterelle mushrooms. Instead you must learn how to ID them in the wild.
Learning how to identify chanterelles is a time consuming process. Ensuring that you are harvesting a mushroom that is safe to eat and not a similar looking poisonous mushroom can be a difficult skill to master.
As we have mentioned, in addition to doing your own research if you are new to foraging for fungi or any other types of food, you should always go out with a more experienced forager. Their experience can help you to better master this tricky skill.
Once you are able to identify and safely harvest these fabulous fungi you will be able to source and enjoy one of the best tasting mushrooms that are rarely available to the ordinary consumer or grower.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.