A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Western Maine. The weather was beautiful- warm, a bit humid with a bit of a breeze, but comfortable to sleep outside in the open air. We walked through the woods in search of wild fungi to add to our dinner and came across an abundance of chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms. Chanterelles were much easier to spot on the forest floor, given their orange color amidst the green and brown ground covering. The black trumpets, however, seemed to sneak up on us as their colors blended with the dark soil and brush. Here is a quick reference to help identify both chanterelles and black trumpets.
Caps: The cap of the chanterelle can be somewhat funnel-shaped with rigid edges. The color ranges from a dark yellow to yellow/brown to orange and orange/brown.
Gills: The gills are actually ridges, and run from the stem to the edge of the underside of the cap. Toward the edge of the cap, the ridges actually fork. The ridges run down the stem.
Picture courtesy of David Spahr
The stem is just about the same color as the cap and gills. The flesh is yellowish-white to orange in color.
Chanterelles grow on the forest floor, often in mossy areas beneath trees. Chanterelles do not grow in clumps, but rather (as some other mushrooms do and are often mistaken for chanterelles.)
Chanterelles are known for having a faint scent of apricots. While I have not experienced this with a single chanterelle, I do pick up on some fruity, apricot-like scents when I have been able to collect a small handful.
Identifying Black Trumpets:
Black Trumpets are typically from 2-7 cm wide and up to 10cm in tall. The are tubular with a deep vase shape at the top (see pictures, below.) The caps of this fugue may roll under. They should be black or dark gray in color, and turn more ashen gray as they age. At this stage, they may still be edible but they will not be nearly as delicious! Black trumpets often grow in mossy areas and grow from a single stem, as seen below.
Wild mushrooms should be cooked prior to consumption. Preparing these wild mushrooms was quite simple; we removed the dirt from the stems and caps (by hand or with a small knife) and sautéed in some butter over a fire outdoors until they were softened, which was about 10 minutes. The butter in this picture (below) is from a local farm– it’s raw and from grass-fed cows. You can add a bit of salt while cooking or wait until your mushrooms are plated and ready to be consumed. (You can cook wild mushrooms the same way you cook domesticated/grocery store mushrooms.)
Consuming wild foods is still, unfortunately, a taboo subject for some; mushrooms seem to be the most daunting. Arthur Haines, owner of the Delta Institute of Natural History, plant taxonomist, botanist and anthropological nutritionist writes:
“Our society has a fear of fungi, there is no doubting that. We’ve been told they can kill us if we ingest the wrong species (which is true). So, we avoid culinary interaction with all wild species because some are poisonous. How is this different from plants, or wild animals, or people (aren’t some of those dangerous as well)? How is this different from farmed foods (people die every year from eating cultivated produce). Recognize that over 300,000 people are hospitalized each year in the US eating “safe food”. Knowing this, are you going to avoid store-purchased food?”
Arthur continues to write:
“Fungi contain a special group of carbohydrates, complex polysaccharides called glucans, which are known to beneficially activate the immune system. Glucans are known to stimulate Natural Killer Cells to destroy malignant cells, increase the scavenging activity of macrophages, induce maturation of T-Cells to enhance cellular immunity, stimulate B-Cells to produce antibodies to tumor antigens, increase release of Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha to induce programmed cell death, up-regulate production of Interferon alpha from white blood cells to improve viral resistance in the body, increase the concentration of some Interleukins that are responsible for triggering the maturation of other immune cells and, well, you get the point. Mushrooms improve the functioning of our immune system in a manner that protects us from bacteria, viruses, and cancer.”
Other mushroom identification resources: (not affiliate links)
And to leave you with a quite from Arthur’s website: