Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hunting Elusive Chanterelles

There may be edible mushrooms growing in the wilds of Southwestern Ontario, but I wouldn't know. They were never pointed out to me. My wild mushroom education consisted of being told not to eat, touch or even look at the mushrooms and other fungi growing in the region. OK. I may be exaggerating a bit. We were allowed to look, but only from a distance.

When we moved to Vancouver Island we heard rumours of edible mushrooms, chanterelles in particular, growing in the woods. Intriguing, but certainly not something I'd experiment with considering my
lack of knowledge in field of mycology. (I also lack a sense of direction, and I'd really prefer not to be one of the many lost mushroom hunters requiring Search and Rescue's services each fall.)

Last weekend Hubby and I got to take part in a supervised chanterelle hunt offered by our local rec centre. Sounded good to u
s. There was no chance of picking poisoned mushrooms or getting lost in the forest. Our instructor was a member of Search and Rescue. Imagine the embarrassment if he had to call in his colleagues to rescue one of his students. We couldn't think of safer circumstances to educate ourselves about these delicious fungi.

The morning started in the classroom where we learn
ed about fungi in general and about chanterelles in particular. We learned where to find them and how to properly pick them. Our instructor brought several examples of chanterelles in various stages of development. He also brought samples of plants that indicate chanterelles could be lurking nearby.

After discussing some basic safely measures, including proper whistle use, we picked our buddies, (Hubby graciously agreed to be my buddy in spite of my aforementioned lack of directional skills.) grabbed our whistles and headed to the first stop of the day.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Fortunately we've had a lot of warm, dry weather over the last several months. Perfect for humans, not so much for chanterelles. We had been warned about this. Our amazingly good summer has lead to a less than amazing chanterelle season. They proved to be more elusive than locally-grown onions in the teeny-tiny town.

There were lots of mushrooms to be found, but these were definitely not what we're looking for. They're the wrong colour, the wrong shape and they're growing in the wrong place.

These ones are closer to the right colour, but nothing else about them is right.


Hubby found most of these at our first stop of the day. I found two, and one didn't count. I found it by accident when I cut the first one. When I put my hand down for balance I dislodged some debris. The mushroom basically fell into my hand.

Our second stop wasn't as productive. Hubby found one chanterelle, and I didn't find any. A few students had better luck. One found a perfect specimen. It looked just like the sample photograph the instructor had brought to class. It was such a beauty I had to take a picture. Not surprisingly, the photo didn't turn out. Did I mention that chanterelles were elusive that day?

With Hubby's fungal windfall, my two paltry contributions and a few donations from our instructor, we had just enough chanterelles for pizza. Hubby makes an awesome chanterelle pizza. It looks good enough to eat, and it hasn't even been baked yet.

Out of the oven it's even more spectacular. And it only took about ten hours to make! (Six hours to find the mushrooms and four hours to make the pizza, if you count dough-rising time - which I obviously do.) Was it worth it? Oh yeah!


  1. What a fun local food adventure! I don't care for mushrooms, but I find mushrooms and mushroom-hunting fascinating. I loved Michael Pollan's writing on the topic in _The Omnivore's Dilemma_.

    And I, too, have a very poor sense of direction. You can imagine how lost I am most of the time in my new town of College Station, Texas.

  2. I was lost all the time when we first moved here too. The town is divided by a river. I found that completely disorienting, and as I was on my own during the day while Hubby was at work, I spent much of my time driving in circles. He had to help me pick out landmarks on the weekends so I could find my way around. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it was before I was confident that I could go somewhere without getting lost. Make sure you take advantage of asking handsome strangers for directions!


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