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Posts tagged ‘foraging’

The Chanterelle Mushroom

Cantherellus cibarius, the golden chanterelle, grows on forest floors, often near conifers, deciduous trees, but also in fields, beginning in July and ending as late as January. The genus Cantharellus, named for the Greek kantharos, meaning cup, is a mushroom found growing wild throughout the world. Efforts to cultivate these mycorrhizal fungi have failed, because it is impossible to recreate the complex symbiotic relationship they have with host plants.

While the shape can vary, from the young chanterelle with a small, rounded cap to the mature mushroom with a flower-like, unfurled cap, the color is distinctive. The beautiful golden-orange cap with a goblet shape is easily spotted on the forest floor; though there are some toxic lookalikes. The jack-o-lantern mushroom is also orange in color, but is found growing in clumps, which chanterelles never do, having a gregarious growth habit (that is, singly, but clustered near each other).

The chanterelle has firm, meaty flesh and an ethereal fruity, apricot aroma and flavor, though these grow fainter as the mushroom ages. The texture also varies with size and age. When young, buttons are firm, but the larger they grow, the more fragile the flesh becomes. Brown or frayed edges of the cap indicate drying and that the flavor is dissipated.

Seared Scallops with Creamed Leeks and Chanterelles by Chef Philip McGrath

Chanterelle stems are solid, not hollow, and the surface of the mushroom is smooth. Flesh ranges in color from white to pale yellow. The underside of the cap has false gills–rounded gill-like ridges that branch irregularly and run down the stem—which is one of its identifying features. Chanterelles contain beta carotene and vitamin D & B as well as the minerals potassium, copper and selenium.

Consumed and relished around the world, the chanterelle is known in Italy as girolle and in Germany as pfifferling, and is one of the most prized mushrooms in culinary circles. In fact, Elias Fries, a 19th century Swedish mycologist, declared the chanterelle to be “one of the most important and best edible mushrooms.”

Chef Ed Brown’s Chicken with Chanterelles and Brussels Sprouts cooked in Duck Fat”

Wild mushrooms can present a challenge to clean. The chanterelle cap folds tightly and has crevices that collect debris, from pine needles to bugs and dirt. The caps will grow around twigs, so it might be necessary to cut out sections of mushroom that have embedded sticks. Cut off the foot of the mushroom stem where dirt tends to clump.

Use ice cold water to rinse chanterelles, but wash quickly and dry thoroughly. Or use a dry toothbrush or a mushroom brush to remove surface dirt and sand. Brush the false gills under running water, or cut them out entirely if they are filled with dirt. Drain on paper towels to remove any moisture. The time taken in the cleaning process is rewarded when you don’t have to spit out debris later.

For such an ethereal looking mushroom, the flavor of the chanterelle is powerful. The golden chanterelle has apricot nuances and a slightly peppery punch that pair well with cream and butter. And it’s hard to mask the flavor, even with cheese, which makes them an ideal wild edible for all kinds of cooking. Chanterelles complement pork, chicken, rabbit, veal and quail, either in a stuffing or with a sauce.

A simple sauté with olive oil and shallots will allow you to experience the full flavor of this extraordinary mushroom. Use chanterelles anywhere you would use a mushroom: on a burger, in risotto, quiche, in a white wine sauce, or simply sautéed with butter and fresh herbs. Many believe this mushroom needs little more than a generous amount of butter and some salt and pepper.

Chanterelles and pasta make a natural pair, as do eggs and chanterelles. Chanterelle mushrooms will add depth to stews and can be miraculous with scallops or shellfish.

Dried Chanterelles are available year-round at D’

Chanterelles are suitable for drying and maintain their aroma and flavor well, though the texture is entirely altered, tending to be chewy. Dried chanterelles can be pulverized into flour and used as a seasoning in soups and sauces, especially creamy ones.

NOTE: Do not eat mushrooms you have found in the wild unless they are identified by a mushroom expert as100% safe.

Rabbit, Foie Gras and Chanterelle Terrine
Pappardelle with Rabbit, Porcini and Parmesan

Spring is here! Cue the ramps!

Spring fever has officially hit D’Artagnan! We love everything about this time of year – longer days, warmer temps, birds singing, trees budding. But what really excites us about spring? The seasonal bounty that flows into the Mushroom Department this time of year. First in? RAMPS!

The ramp is a wild onion native to North America, and is sometimes called spring onion, wild leek or wild garlic.According to John Mariani, author of “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” the word ramp comes from “rams,” or “ramson,” from Elizabethan dialect, referring to wild garlic. The word is first mentioned in English print in 1530, and was used by English immigrants of the southern Appalachian Mountains, where ramps grow in abundance. In fact, West Virginia celebrates the spring season with ramp festivals and events.

The ramp resembles a scallion with a pungent bulb below ground, but could be mistaken for a lily-of-the-valley above ground, with dark green, broad leaves, that grow about six inches tall. The lower part of the stem, near the white bulb can be tinted with a reddish-purple color. You cannot mistake the ramp for anything else in the bare forest. Just break a leaf and if you smell the very garlicky-onion scent, you’ve found yourself some ramps. Ramps grow from South Carolina to Canada and are often the very first green thing to appear in the dun-colored, winter-weary forest. Ramps are most often found near the banks of streams or rivers, in moist areas that are shaded, and on hillsides. They grow in clumps and spread outward, so are often spotted in large patches of green leaves. Ramps are an easy and safe plant for the beginner forager to pick and eat.

Long appreciated by country folk and eaten as a spring tonic, the ramp has in recent years taken on a mantle of cult status among chefs in fine restaurants. As a result, there are more people enjoying ramps than ever before. Ramps have defied attempts at cultivation, so are only picked in the wild. There are concerns that ramps may be overharvested. While that might not be a realistic concern about this tough little forest plant, ramps do take several years to propagate. So if you do forage for ramps, pick only what you need and know you can eat. Don’t pick all in the same spot, but try to thin out areas that are packed with plants, leaving room for the remaining plants to spread, and provide you with more ramps in seasons to come. A good rule of thumb is to never take more than a third of a patch.


Since ramps are collected in the forest, they tend to be dirty. The bulb and roots are always coated in dirt, so they must be heavily rinsed. Cut off the roots as close to the bulb as possible, and run the green leaves under water carefully. Bugs, twigs, pine needles and other detritus of the forest floor might hitch a ride on your ramps.

The leaves and bulbs are both edible, though are often cooked separately, as the bulbs take a bit more time to cook through. The bulbs offer a punch of garlic flavor to any dish that might benefit from that: soups, eggs, rice or potato dishes. Ramps can be eaten raw, as you would a scallion, though they will be much stronger in flavor. In central Appalachia, ramps are most often fried with potatoes in bacon fat (though duck fat does nicely, too), or with scrambled eggs and bacon. Like their onion cousins, ramps get on well with bacon. Perhaps it is because of the way that the smoky intensity of bacon balances the pungent garlicky essence of the ramp.

Ramp Stuffed Rabbit Loin Recipe with Wild Mushrooms

Our Ramp Stuffed Rabbit Loin Recipe

Whether you sauté ramps as you would onions, or grill them whole, add them to a casserole or gratin or mix them into a cornbread stuffing, the only time to eat them is in early spring. Unless you pickle the bulbs to enjoy as a garnish the rest of the year, or freeze them for winter cooking adventures. Some people are content to simply enjoy ramps during those early weeks of spring, when they are the first green vegetable to appear after a long cold winter.