Foraging chanterelle mushrooms with Sylvain Cormier
by Allison Cooke
On Prince Edward Island, one of the best-kept secrets is where to find the golden treasure of the wild, the chanterelle mushroom. These are considered a delicacy, and when purchased at the grocery store can be quite pricey. Therefore, when you do find a good, wild patch to call your own, it’s best to keep it to yourself! Picking your own chanterelles is a great way to connect to the outdoors, venture into the woods and experience foraging for your own local ingredients.
To begin your treasure hunt, you will first want to go into a heavily wooded area, which has a lot of moss, as the chanterelle thrives in mossy areas. Depending where on the Island you are harvesting, you may want to bring some bug spray; the mosquitoes can be a little bit of a bother! The best woods to search in are of mixed variety—be sure it is not in a place that is mainly pine. Make sure this is on public land, and as a courtesy, never search on private land without permission.
Once you find a patch, always use a knife to cut them just above the base to ensure that they will grow in the same spot next year. If you pull them from the ground you could risk weakening the patch, and we want to be sure to have these wonderful mushrooms grow on PEI year after year.
Chanterelles also love rain, and need quite a bit to grow. The season usually begins in August and can go until late September, but since it has been such a dry summer on PEI, there may be a slight delay in their growth. If you are out looking, and come across smaller chanterelles, remember the patch and head back after a rainfall; they could have grown quite large, very quickly.
Chanterelles have a bright golden color, which, against the green moss, is hard to miss.
They also have a very sweet smell that is comparable to fruit, such as apricots. Their texture is tender, unlike most mushrooms, so they will not crumble as easily. Another marked feature of the chanterelle is that it has ridges (or gills) that will run down the underside of the cap, and are often forked and connecting.
After you have collected your gold, you may want to give them a quick cleaning by brushing off any dirt. Chanterelles hold a lot of water, so they are often prepared in a covered pan, with no butter or oil, unless you want to sweeten them. When made this way, the mushrooms then release a lot of their own water, which can be used as a stock for soups.
As with any foragable, if you cannot identify it 100% do not eat it. This is especially true with wild mushrooms, as there are many varieties and some could poison you. Do not just rely images. Be sure to also compare all of the characteristics true to a Chanterelle, and always consult an expert.
So this summer, for the short time you can, head out into nature to search for the golden chanterelle mushroom. The hunt will be as good as the treasure.
Sylvain Cormier is a local forager, and the owner of Everything Wild, a business that promotes unique and wild edibles on Prince Edward Island. It is his top priority to encourage eating locally, and appreciating the food we have growing in our backyards.