Chanterelle is probably one of the most desirable edible mushrooms found in Europe.
It is orange or yellow, meaty and funnel-shaped and can be found in woodlands, growing from the ground or decaying wood. They will reappear in the same place every year, so if you find a good spot, you should be able to find them there in upcoming years as well. However, you should be careful when harvesting them and not disturb the ground in which the mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom) grows.
Chanterelles can be quite easily recognised by amateurs as there’s only one other mushroom they can be mistaken for in Ireland – the False Chanterelle – an edible but not tasty species. They are similar in appearance, but true Chanterelle can be identified by distinctive fruity smell, reminiscent of apricots, and a mildly peppery taste.
Unlike many other edible mushrooms, Chanterelles are usually found “healthy looking”, which might be one of many reasons for their popularity. They really are seldom invaded by insects and forest animals do not share our interest in them as food. Researchers have found that this mushroom has great insecticidal properties that are harmless to humans and yet protect the mushroom body against insects and other potentially harmful organisms.
Chanterelles are also among the richest sources of vitamin D known, high in potassium and relatively high in vitamin C. They are not eaten raw as their rich flavour is best released when cooked and there are many recipes to choose from.
Remember – do not eat any wild mushrooms unless you are absolutely sure that you identified the species correctly or consulted with an expert!
Main image by Zdenek Cvrcek, pencil and aquarelle, CC BY-NC 3.0
Side images by Malcolm Storey, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0