I'm not going to lie, I am a little biased here. These mushrooms are the first ones I ever found, identified, gathered and ate. So they have a special place in my heart.
These aren't just my favorite mushrooms to quietly hunt for, they are what we call "choice" mushrooms. This means that they are widely agreed to be people's first choice to devour! They have amazing flavor, aroma and texture. Honestly, most mushrooms to me taste just earthy but these are heavenly.
Now here in Virginia, we have a lovely variety of delicious mushrooms you can find year round. In the spring, people spend countless hours searching for the Morels. In the fall, the two most exciting to discover are Chicken of the Woods and Lion's Mane. All year you can get pretty lucky at finding Oyster Mushrooms. But the summer is peak Chanterelle season and I love it.
I am going to brief you on where to find these, how to properly ID them, lookalikes and what to do with them beside just jumping with joy.
Chanterelle season is June-September so study this guide and get ready to forage. All of these have a tight bond with the plants and trees, this is called a mycorrhizal relationship. They are also all terrestrial mushrooms meaning they exclusively grow from the ground.
Black Trumpet - Craterellus fallax is in the Cantharellaceae family. It is a fragile lil fungi, they can be from 1-4in big, looking like a funnel with a blackish grey inside and out. The top of the funnel will curl back and it will be hollow on the inside. They are quite hard to see for with their color, they blend in with the dead leaves and dirt easily. They tend to be in clusters or scattered on the ground in broadleaf and conifer forests (I found mine near oak trees). Black trumpet mushrooms can often be found near chanterelles so look all around you! They are very easy to clean and cook very quickly so don't over do it.
Below are a lookalike that although is not dangerous, just something to be aware of. These are Devil's Urn Mushrooms. They tend to grow on dead branches and buried wood from broadleaf trees in clusters. It only grows in the spring so you shouldn't see them in the middle of the summer. Its a bit too tough to want to eat but its not inedible. Best to leave it alone to keep decomposing that branch.
Chanterelles are THE best mushroom to eat. I will fist fight you on this. Cantharellus cibarius is also a part of the cantharellaceae family. It is a beautiful bright yellow color, can be from 1-5in large, looks like it has curly/wavy edges, the gills are flushed with the stems and these are either solo or scattered all around. I also found these near oak trees but they can be found near other broadleaf and conifer trees. They make my mouth water just with the aroma with sautéing them with some vegan butter. I talked in depth about them for a recipe I posted a while ago. Can check it out here.
A deadly look alike is the Jack-o-lantern Mushrooms. Going to insert a photo here for reference. I will say the best way to spot these is that they are bright orangey yellow and grow in clusters which is uncharacteristic of chanterelles. They also grow near decomposing trees at the base or on the underground dying roots.
Cinnabar-Red Chanterelle are the last ones for today. They are very cute and small only getting up to 2 inches at best. They are like smaller chanterelles but come in the colors bright red to reddish orange. They will be smoother on top, wavy edges, gills/veins moving down the smooth stem. These were found in the same forest as the other two but mainly in moss and on hillsides scattered all around. I don't think they are really worth harvesting because of how small they are but they tasted good!
Here is a lookalike that is just as cute but not worth picking up either. Its call a Hygrocybe cantharellus. It is almost neon reddish orange with a yellow like underside where the gills are, much skinner with smaller heads that are waxy. They won't kill you but like I said, they are cool to admire but leave them in the forest next to the hardwood trees they like hanging out with.
In short, go outside and get huntin'! They are lots more mushrooms that will pop up but these are going to be my must haves this season. Let me know if you find some on your own and tag me on IG or Twitter @withcarrington! Be safe, be certain, and be courteous to all living things.
Wish mush love,