Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Golden Chanterelles. Edible Mushrooms in Southeast Alaska.

A mushroom knife with a brush is helpful when harvesting golden chanterelles or any mushrooms. These small, young chanterelles were harvested early in the season.

Bringing tasty edible mushrooms home to add to meals is a bonus in any day. I so enjoy finding the golden chanterelle and the winter chanterelle! My favorite of the two is the golden chanterelle. There are several closely related species that are called golden chanterelle, and all of them are edible and tasty. The Cantharellus formosus or Pacific golden chanterelle, Cantharellus cascadensis, and Cantharellus cibarius are very similar in appearance.


Here in Southeast Alaska I have found enough abundance in some years to have some fine meals, and to put some chanterelles up for winter. In other years I have felt lucky to find just a few. I have never encountered enough to think about a commercial harvest. The photos that I see from other places of golden chanterelles dotting the forest floor astound me. Hunting golden chanterelles here in the Tongass National Forest is usually a strenuous day of climbing and crawling, resulting in a few bruises, and two or three pounds of golden chanterelles if I am lucky.


There are several dangerous look-alikes, so know your chanterelles if you plan to go harvesting them. More about that in a bit.

Golden chanterelle in moss. 

Finding one golden chanterelle peeking out from under moss or finding a herd of them hiding under a tree root is pretty common.  

Golden chanterelles in a hollow under a tree root. 

Sometimes, though, chanterelles are standing out boldly on the forest floor.

Chanterelles have vein-like ridges instead of blade-like gills. 

The buff tan to golden yellow is the first thing to draw my eye. Young golden chanterelles have a firm cap with the edges of the cap rolled under. With age the edges become thinner, fluted and soft. The stalk flows into the cap like a trumpet. Golden chanterelles have vein-like ridges instead of blade-like gills. The ridges extend partway down the stalk and cross link and branch. I turn every chanterelle over to look at the ridges and be sure that it is a chanterelle. The spores are white, yellowish, or ochre.

False chanterelle. Not edible.

There are several look-alikes that could make you very sick! The false chanterelle is a cheery bit of chanterelle-like color. Sometimes it even has pretty, wavy edges like a chanterelle. It is a flimsy mushroom, though, so your hands will tell you something is not right. If you turn it over you will see that it is too orange on the underside. Then you will notice that it has gills instead of ridges, and does not belong in your mushroom basket.

The jack-o-lantern mushroom could also be mistaken for a chanterelle. Check every chanterelle that you pick, and if you are not sure, don’t eat it.

False chanterelles can look similar to golden chanterelles, but don't eat them.

The underside of a false chanterelle is very different from a golden chanterelle.

Some golden chanterelles are pretty round, and others are...artistic. 

Having found golden chanterelles in old growth, second growth, beside driveways, on hills, in valleys, near streams,  and away from water sources, I hesitate to tell you to look in a certain type of habitat. If you find a patch then there are likely to be more in the general vicinity the next year.

Golden chanterelles pull apart like string cheese. If I don’t feel like slicing them, or want a different presentation (yeah, right, like I am a fancy enough cook to pre-think presentation) then I pull them apart into strips.

The delicate deliciousness of golden chanterelles is a favorite in cream of chanterelle soup and in omelets. Once, when I was living semi-remote, I discovered that there was no cream, half-and-half, or milk in the cabin to make cream of chanterelle soup with - imagine! There was sour cream, though, so I cobbled together a sour-cream-of-chanterelle soup, and it was scrumptious.

If it hasn’t been raining then chanterelles are pretty easy to clean. Trim the stalk and brush them off in the field, then wipe them with a damp cloth or paper towel, if needed, before cooking. If the Southeast Alaska rain has been pummeling the mushrooms, and splattering forest duff onto them, then more drastic measures must be taken. Try not to immerse chanterelles in a bowl of water, as they soak it up like a sponge and then get mushy when cooked. I use a natural bristle brush and a little water to banish the dirt and spruce needles, and then shake or pat them dry. Well, sort of dry.

For most purposes I slice chanterelles and sauté them with butter. They make moisture – quite a lot of it if it has been raining. You can cook them until the liquid is gone, or pour it off if it threatens to drown your work.

Golden chanterelles are a splash of color in the forest. 

I preserve mushrooms for winter by freezing them. Label a Ziploc freezer bag with contents and date first. Put half a cup to a cup of sauteed mushrooms into a Ziploc with a little of the liquid from cooking. Press out all of the air, and roll the bag up, seal, and freeze. Easy!


Remember! I am not an expert on mushrooms! If you are going foraging please learn how to identify mushrooms by getting ahold of a good book and paying attention to the details within. Here are some good ones:


"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

Happy Mushroom Hunting! 

Alaska Beachcomber


More posts on mushrooms:

More on subsistence food and medicine:

Edible Mushroom Walk in Wrangell

Today I had the gift of being one of four women, sent into the woods to discover fungi. We went wandering under the trees with laughter and delight. But let me back up to the beginning.

Pear shaped puffballs growing on an elderberry stalk. Elderberry branches contain toxins, so I gave this normally edible mushroom a pass.

A group of about twenty gathered for a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. It started with a midmorning meeting; a group of all ages getting together to learn about edible mushrooms. Mind candy for an intriguing activity! 

Bonus! It was a warm, sunny day in September in Southeast Alaska!!

We showed up for the Fungi/Lichen Gathering and Identification event in Wrangell. We broke up into smaller groups, and each group explored different areas. Our little group of four walked through the distubed soil of a short road, a stand of alder, and then coniferous woods. We started out with minor finds, mostly consisting of LBM’s - little brown mushrooms. Then we found some cool, different 'shrooms. Katherine found a beautiful big yellow amanita, and then a little button amanita that could be mistaken for a puffball. The amanita muscaria is pretty, but poisonous.

One of the great variety of coral mushrooms. Some are edible and some are not, and it is very difficult to tell the difference.

The best part, though, was that we snuck through a fence. It was an old and abandoned fence, but that didn't matter. We had a knowingness that we would find the good stuff because Donna found a spot for us to pull back the fence, crouch down, and slip through like kids escaping the bounds of the schoolyard. Immersed in the wonderment of childhood and the laughter of womanhood, the mushroom hunting got even better. Back in the woods there were pretty white mushrooms of the Clitocybe persuasion, yellow-foot (Cantharellus tubaeformis) with their fluted caps, and frilly coral mushrooms (varieties of Ramaria) in the moss of the forest floor. Our assignment was to collect interesting specimens and bring them back to the picnic tables.

Kate Mohatt, mycologist and Chugach National Forest ecologist, looking over a table of mushrooms with workshop participants. 

The tables filled with a visual feast of fungi as each group returned with their finds. The mushrooms were loosely sorted into three categories: gilled mushrooms with dark spores, gilled mushrooms with light spores, and mushrooms without gills. Some were edible and many were not.

Isn't Shoemaker Park a beautiful location? 

Kate Mohatt discussing the merits of golden chanterelles  and hedgehog mushrooms for dinner. 

Kate Mohatt, a mycologist, and a Chugach National Forest ecologist, spoke about identifying different species. A few mushrooms are identifiable at a glance, and other species can only be teased apart by working with a microscope or by doing genetic testing. In between those two extremes are hundreds of mushrooms that are identified using detailed descriptions and spore color.

Kate clued us in to details concerning edibility of many of the species. She also shared her five top favorites for the dinner table: belly button hedgehog (Hydnum umbilicatum), bears head (Hericium abietis), king bolete (Boletus edulis), golden chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus), and hedgehog (Hydnum repandum), but not necessarily in that order.

She even knows lots of the mushrooms by their Latin names. Yep, right off the top of her head. Amazing.

The whole group did find a good variety of edible mushrooms, and some that are particularly delectable. They were harvested away from busy roads and other sources of pollutants. Mushrooms can take up contaminants, like lawn chemicals, that no one wants to eat.

Angel wings (Pleurocybella porrigens) are edible in moderation by people who do not have kidney trouble.

Kate suggested that we stick to eating clearly identifiable mushrooms that are proven to be edible, rather than fool around with mushrooms that are questionable. Being a mycologist, she had great information on mushrooms like angel wings that should only be eaten in moderation, and not at all by a person who has kidney issues. She noted that new research has changed the edibility recommendations on some mushrooms. The alcohol inky cap (Coprinus atramentarius), for example, used to be considered an edible, but now is not recommended. She also noted that all mushrooms, including the grocery store varieties, should be cooked prior to being eaten.

Karen Dillman (center) is a lichen expert and a Tongass National Forest ecologist . She is discussing good edibles with Elody while Katherine studies the non-edible Amanitas on the table.

The gills of Western red-dye (Dermocybe phoenicea

Karen Dillman, a lichen expert and Tongass National Forest ecologist, shared some of her expertise in using mushrooms for dyeing wool and silk. She was happy to see a Dermocybe phoenicea brought to the table. It is a small mushroom that will dye wool a deep red if used with the correct mordant. Other dye mushrooms found today included the dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), the fragrant hydnellum (Hydnellum suaveolens), and Dermocybe semisanguinea.

The Dyer's polypore (Hydnellum suaveolens) dyes wool yellows, golds, and orange.

It was a fun and interesting workshop!

A giahugical (that's really big) thank-you to Kate and Karen for coming to Wrangell to teach us more about mushrooms in Southeast Alaska!

And to the women who made looking for mushrooms more fun than eating double dessert: 

Thank you Donna, for finding the place to sneak through the fence, and for coaxing all of us to enjoy our inner child.

Thank you Carrie, for being the responsible one;  checking time and location for all of us, while being the essence of light and laughter.

Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus conifericola)  is edible when young and tender.

Thank you Katherine, for your infectious delight in the world, and for your beautiful laugh rippling through the forest.

And to all of you, my friends all over the world, grab a few of your near-and-dears, and go have a blast exploring the wilds!

Alaska Beachcomber


Highly recommended books on mushrooms: 

"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

There is not enough information in this site to identify mushroom species. This site is not intended to identify mushrooms, or suggest that you use or eat them. This is merely an introduction. If you are curious about mushrooms please find good tools to learn more about them! 

Golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) found hiding under a big root. This is a delicious edible!

Mushroom photos from other days have been included for illustration. 


In the whirlwind of July and August - harvest time - with amazing weather this year, there have been many things that I want to share with you. I've been a little bit tied up. 

I sense the stick. Let me slip the bounds of responsibility and chase the stick. 

Pressure washing decks all decked out in raingear and safety glasses. 

In this temperate rainforest algae grows in the corners, even on the painted metal of the boat deck. Scrubbing with a brush just doesn't get it all, so I chased it away with the pressure washer.

There has been more painting, cleaning, moving stuff around....but all of that is pretty boring. The early blueberries are ripe, thimbleberries are coming on, and a few mushrooms even showed up after a recent rain!

I am headed out to the berry patch. Must pick berries! 


Untie the seine line. I will chase the stick!

Oval-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium

Oh, climbing through a blueberry patch in the sun, picking those delightful blue orbs! Berries on cereal, sweet jam, and enough in the freezer for blueberry pie in January when the world is white!

I use a picker to harvest blueberries, gently combing the tips of the tines through the branches. The weather has been a bit dry for this type of blueberry, but the darker Alaska blueberry is coming on, and they might have had a better year.

Time for a walk with my sweetheart. 

Darner dragonfly stopping by for a visit.

We went for a walk near a stream and the dragonflies were flitting about. One flew near and turned toward me. I said hello to it and held my arm out, and it landed on my wrist!

Grinning dragonfly. 

It sat contentedly, seemingly smiling, even grooming its eyes with its legs, while the love of my life pulled a point-and-shoot camera out of the backpack so I could take a few photos.  After spending time with dragonflies and posting about them recently, this small connection made me giddy!

My sweetie and I continued on after the dragonfly went about its way. The forest was dry enough that we could sit on the moss without getting soaked, which is unusual in Southeast Alaska! The creek was very low. We watched fingerlings in the water, spiders on their webs, and commented on how the highbush cranberries are going to take another week or two to ripen. Then, just a little ways from the stream, his sharp eyes caught a hint of golden brown in the forest floor.

Chanterelle mushrooms

Golden chanterelles

A golden chanterelle, just right for harvest. 

I check each mushroom to be sure that it is a chanterelle. On the underside of the cap it has ridges that often branch like veins.

Chanterelle in Southeast Alaska

On the way back to the boat I admired thimbleberries growing by the roadside. 

Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus

The red ones are ripe. Picking these delicate berries will turn your fingers red. They must be eaten or processed right away, or they will mold very quickly. Thimbleberries are small and have LOTS of little seeds, so they are not a favorite of many people, but I pick a few each year, and enjoy them.

They have showy blossoms earlier in the year.  

A bumblebee working thimbleberry blossoms. 

And it is time to go back to the boat and ready it for a small adventure.  

Enjoy your summer outings! 

Alaska Beachcomber

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