My sister had said that she saw fresh Chanterelle Mushrooms on the menu in Portland recently.
I could not believe it. Wild Chanterelles grow in the fall after the first good, soaking rain of the hot summer. This is only July, and even though we did have some good rains so far this summer that helped keep the fire danger low, I seriously doubted that would have been enough moisture to make it through the canopy of dense trees to the dry earth and then below that to the mycelium mat ( the network structure that produces the mushrooms).
It is even strange to classify them as ‘wild’. Chanterelles have defied cultivation. They only grow in their own optimum spaces found in thick Douglas Fir, Cedar, White Fir and Hemlock tree stands. The conditions such as soil, moisture, nutrients from fallen tree needles and temperature are just a portion of the list of necessities required. Before the mushrooms, the structure that grows the mushrooms has to be in place, it is called the mycelium mat. If you have ever dug into a pile of wood chips and had all the chips stuck together by a fibrous growth, you are familiar with what a mycelium mat actually is.
We search our forest every fall for the culinary delight, and many years find a nice bounty.
To grow a patch of Chanterelles, the mat may be as large as an acre, growing a few inches beneath the surface around the roots of the big trees. So to hear that someone not only found some of the elusive fungi this early in the year but had found enough to serve to customers in Portland is beyond unusual.
I was out in our forest, trimming limbs along the bulldozer logging paths for easier passage and was relieved when the battery on my pole saw ran dead ( I had run out of power long before the saw did). On my way down the hill and out of the forest, I took a detour to a deer and elk trail that has been known to be a hot spot for the elusive Chanterelles.
With a lot of looking and a lot more luck, I did find a handful of the delicious mushrooms. I could not have been more surprised!
The harvested mushrooms were cleaned, sauteed, and placed atop cheeseburgers for dinner.
The unexpected delicacy was a wonderful addition to the evening meal.