Today my sweetheart and I drove to five different places on Wrangell Island and walked in the forest looking for edible mushrooms. We found a few hedgehogs and three golden chanterelles that were looking pretty old and waterlogged from the rainy weather. Mostly we found winter chanterelles.
When other edible fungi are fading, the winter chanterelles still fill the mushroom basket.
Winter chanterelles are also called yellow foot or funnel chanterelles. Real mycologists call them Craterellus tubaeformis. Older books might have them listed as Cantharellus tubaeformis. The names change as research marches forward.
This dainty mushroom makes up for its small size by being widespread and available from late summer into early winter. It likes the coniferous forests of Southeast Alaska, and I find it in old growth and second growth.
Winter chanterelles can be a boring light brown all over, or may be orangish-brown, or have a yellow stalk and brown to dark brown cap. The cap is rolled under at first, then flattens out, and then becomes trumpet shaped as the mushroom matures.
The underside of the cap is usually light tan to ivory. Look for the distinctive chanterelle ridges under the cap. They branch like veins.
The stipe may be tan or yellow, and is hollow. As you can see in the photos, it can appear round or flattened, straight or dancing out of the earth. No, this is not a professional description, and I hope that you do not solely use the information here for mushroom identification. There are good books available, and I will list several at the end of this post.
When the ridges are wrinkled and the edges of the cap are flimsy and breaking, or mushy, then the mushroom is too old to harvest for food. If it looks so yucky that you wouldn't buy it in the grocery store then just leave it in the forest.
Winter chanterelles are not quite as tasty as the golden chanterelle, but they are pretty good. It takes a bunch of them to make a side dish for several people. This small fungi shrinks quite a bit when cooked. That frypan full might be a cupful when they are done.
I have dried winter chanterelles and then added them to soup and stew to add something special to winter meals. Pop them into the dehydrator, and then once they are dry put them into a canning jar with the lid on tight. Once I lucked out and had warm day with a light breeze to lay winter chanterelles out on a sheet in the morning. They were dry by late afternoon!
Here are a few great mushroom books:
"Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest" by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati
"Mushrooms Demystified" by David Arora
"All That the Rain Promises, and More..." by David Arora
In the rainy fall forests of Southeast Alaska the winter chanterelles are a touch of sunshine. May they bring a smile to you when you see them.
More on subsistence food and medicine in Southeast Alaska:
- Harvesting Devil's Club Root
- Making Devil's Club Salve and Tincture
- Harvesting Bullwhip Kelp
- Bullwhip Kelp Pickle Recipe
- Highbush Cranberry Ketchup
- Highbush Cranberry Punch
- Cleaning Dungeness Crab