It’s time to go hunting for chanterelles (or girolles, also known by their Sunday name, cantharellus cibarius), but only if you know what you’re doing.
These elegant mushrooms – apricot-coloured parasols - are similar to the orange and rather clunkier looking jack ‘o’ lanterns and false chanterelles, which have slightly different gills from their true counterpart. Both are poisonous, though not deadly.
HOW TO FORAGE
You should cut chanterelles, rather than yank them, and leave behind the dirty or fusty looking ones. They should smell sweet.
If you’re not confident about identifying them, and need a bit of help, Wee Folk of the Woods in Falkirk do foraging courses.
Also, professional foraging teacher, Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods (www.gallowaywildfoods.com) has some sensible advice.
“There are areas of Scotland where chanterelles are super-abundant, often growing in vast numbers under spruce plantations. There are other areas where they are scarce. The best way to understand appropriate harvesting strategies is to revisit their locations year after year, and gain a feel for how and when they do well, and what feels like an appropriate harvest for their context”, he says. “The slow growth (by mushroom standards) of chanterelles, and slow release of spores means that, apart from disturbing their mycelium, the worst way you can behave when harvesting is to take the immature buttons. While the science is clear that this does not affect mushroom production at that location in future years, it does mean that the patch is less likely to reach and colonise new locations. Picking tiny buttons is an own-goal, removing the potential for a bigger harvest a month down the line”.
He recommends a minimum cap diameter of 2cm.
People can get very possessive of patches. There are also those who are anti-foraging, and believe we shouldn’t tamper with the environment by picking wild foods, even when it’s just for individual use. Mark’s website also covers how to pick considerately.
HOW TO COOK THEM
Like most mushrooms, chanterelles absorb butter like a sponge.
They also work well with pasta, garlic, and classic herbs, like parsley and tarragon, plus salty ham and speck.
Classic Phaidon book, The Silver Spoon, only has two recipes that feature them - as part of a fusilli dish, and with pheasant (along with ham, rosemary, shallots and other fragrant ingredients).
“We simply cook them first in some oil, then after a minute of cooking add some butter, parsley and garlic and cook for another minute,” says Giada Betti of Edinburgh’s Aemilia pasta makers, who have just opened a shop in Portobello. “Serve simply on toast or with some freshly made tagliatelle for the perfect combination”.
Scott Smith, chef patron of Fhior (and online shop, Root to Market, which has a new website, delivers nationwide and usually stocks chanterelles), suggests; “Smoked lardons, a little sherry (Bristol Cream), parsley and, when off the heat, a big dollop of creme fraiche”.
Want to leave it to the experts? Edinburgh chef Barry Bryson, has just created a mushroom brioche, mushroom custard, nasturtium and girolle dish, which he’ll be served at his current Wild Dining Pop-Up at Jupiter Artland. While, Contini George Street has a new chanterelle dish with EVOO, parsley, dried chilli and spaghettini.