It is the year of the mushroom in Eastern Pennsylvania thanks to the record rainfall we have been receiving. Many other crops have been suffering-peaches have sucked up so much water to lose most of their sugar content and subsequently flavor. The tomato blight has hit plants hard. And the sun necessary to bring out that wonderful warm sugary bite in strawberries has been negligible so while fat the poor strawberries have been flavorless. But mushrooms have been having a field day.
I hiked a wonderful trail in Pennsylvania (a hike that takes you past two amazing frog and newt ponds and up to quite a view of the valley, fields, and town below. The path was covered like a fairy forest with mushrooms of many varieties. There were bright purple mushrooms, death-black mushrooms, and those beautiful canary yellow Chanterelles that shown almost like witch hazel, illuminating the train in front of us with their bright plumes.
Now, I am not quite the naturalist my parents raised me to be. I could identify the many hawks beginning their migration but I have never been confident enough to identify edible mushrooms in the wild. It’s like Russian roulette.
However, Chanterelles are almost unmistakable with their unique gills which trace their spongy flesh like fan-shaped veins. Their color is also a strong give-away and with my Father leading me through the Chanterelle’s main identifying features, I began foraging.
Well, foraging doesn’t quite describe how easy it was to find these beauties. It was more like market basket picking. They were right there in front of us, gleaming, lining the path and just begging to be picked. We willingly obliged, filling bandanna gurneys to hold them as we continued our hike (We had not come as experts with vast bags to hold this bounty. We were just the fortunate explorers, gifted by nature).
As our gurneys began to swell and we grew pickier with the mushroom candidates, I saw it ahead: the Mother Ship. The Big Kahuna. My Chanterelle.
It was almost as big as my head, untouched, unspoiled, perfect. When my Father admitted what a value Chanterelles command in the market; I was tempted to sell them. I envisioned this great beauty perched at the top of our horde on a measuring scale and the envious glances of all the purveyors around. Like winning a country fair, I was sure that I had found one of the largest most perfect specimens around. But there was such a simple glory in eating the spoils of our “labor.” How could you sell such perfection?
We were going to eat perfection, and how much more enjoyable is that.
If you still want to learn more about this delightful mushroom, check out this link: http://www.wild-harvest.com/pages/chanterelle.htm