Down East 2013 ©
If you aren’t feasting on chanterelle mushrooms right now, you’re missing one of summer’s best treats.
As Greg Marley reports in his book Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010, $17.95), “summer’s true arrival cannot be acknowledged until the first chanterelle’s poke warm golden caps from beneath their leafy cover.”
Marley, who is also the author of Mushrooms for Health , notes that chanterelles are “at the top of the mushroom heap in popularity” because of their great flavor, relatively common occurrence in Maine’s woods, predictability, and ease of identification.
He also nailed Linda and I when he reported if people, “collect and eat only one mushroom in Maine, it is generally the chanterelle.”
We’ve been collecting and feasting on chanterelles for five years, since Mt. Vernon’s mushroom guru Barbara Skapa identified them for us on a mushroom walk sponsored by our local library.
There are no mushrooms that look exactly like chanterelles that will kill you – at least that’s what Barbara assured us. I remained skeptical when we gathered our first batch of chanterelles at our North Woods camp on the edge of Baxter Park.
Lin sautéed them simply in butter, with salt and pepper, and they were scrumptious. But when I woke up the next morning, I proclaimed, “Thank God I’m alive!” and I never doubted again.
We pick 8 to 10 pounds of chanterelles around home and camp and feast on them well into fall.
They’re great in a cream sauce over pasta, sautéed with veggies, and in omelets – but I prefer them as we first tasted them – simply sautéed with butter. Their flavor is too delicate for red sauces, onions, or garlic.
Marley says they can be lightly sautéed and frozen. We’ll try that this year, as well as his suggestion to include them in chicken dishes. His recipe “Chanterelles and Chicken in Cream Sauce over Fettuccini” sounds really yummy.
Although they are easy to identify, I’m not the guy to tell you how to do it. Nor do I suggest getting yourself a mushroom guidebook and going at it. Find yourself a mushroom expert, and hit the forest for a lesson.
Lots of mushroom walks are offered this summer from local libraries to a July 29 outing with Greg Marley himself,  sponsored by the Midcoast Chapter of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.
We find chanterelles along old tote roads and in spruce forests, but Marley says they’re also found under hardwood trees. More places to look!
If you do start harvesting mushrooms, please first ask permission. Yes, I know we have a tradition in Maine of helping ourselves to forest crops like fiddleheads and mushrooms, but it’s not right.
Private landowners are more sensitive these days to who is using their land and what they’re using it for – so it’s not only courteous and neighborly to ask permission, it’s essential if we are to maintain these opportunities and our outdoor heritage on private lands.
I do encourage you to go now, for the chanterelle feast has begun. Plucking something from the land and eating it for dinner is the essence of living. And summer is the time!