With the summer approaching near-record dryness, Golden Chanterelles are characterized by a ruddy coloring underneath the gills and brittle stems.
In search of Gold Chanterelle
I was somewhere near Montesano, when the ticking of my engine started. Feeling liberated with my recently purchased Subaru, I took my weekend to explore the Olympic Peninsula in search of summer Gold Chanterelle.
I had learned from Foraged and Found Edibles –- a staple vendor at the Ballard Market -– that button gold chanterelle could be found west of Olympia. Of course, being a former employee of the small company helped in scoring the general area of the mushroom patch. As typical foragers do, they were careful not to be too specific about the area which they were talking about.
Back to the Subaru -- the ticking of my engine forced me to take an earlier exit than I had planned. It turned out my exhaust gasket had blown, or at least that’s what a gas station attendant named Murphy had told me. He reassured me I’d make it back to Seattle if I stay around sixty mph. The sound of the damaged gasket made a sound something like a high velocity beaver tail slapping placid water thousands of times per second. I asked Murphy about chanterelles and he said he had friends that picked the logging roads. He pointed south. I looked in the direction of his finger and saw dark green foothills and ridges with brown patches of clear cuts. The terrain looked promising and so I went there.
Ignoring the blasting engine and watching the heat gauge, I followed a logging road for a time. It felt blasphemous to be riding high in second gear up a ridge in such an ear-bruising contraption. The road veined through scores of Doug Fir, Hemlock and Lodge Pole Pine, some cedar and others that I didn’t recognize. I parked at a point where I thought the steep slope looked easy to climb, taking my camera.
After each step, I noticed how dry the slope was. Dust erupted in light tawny plumes. The dirt was almost like whole-wheat flour.
As I climbed the slope to the ridge, there didn’t seem to be much hope. There was not a single fleck or hint of bright yellow circles punctuated in the brown and green of the woods. I walked the ridge for a while. Trees towered and swayed. Then, out of nowhere, I almost stepped on a bright yellow-brown cluster of button Chanti’s -- there were four of them all in a row, just hanging out!
The gills had ruddy coloring underneath them, evidence of lack of rain and sun exposure. Slicing with a pocketknife, the stem felt firm and brittle, characteristic of a dry Chanterelle. Fall and winter Chanterelle tend to be more rubbery and full of moisture from soaking up winter rain.
As I explored the ridge looking for more, the mushrooms I found sporadically were all very small, firm and dry. I also found chanterelles that were broken up, dried out and almost red, with only parts of them still maintaining the characteristic golden yellow color.
In the end, I picked my Mariner’s at of Chanterelles. I like to tear mine into fourths and sauté them in butter, season with salt and pepper and serve them with eggs, poultry, or pasta. I also make a fine pizza, serving the chanterelle with olive oil, truffle cheese or goat cheese and zucchini – sometimes with a very (very!) light speckling of crispy bacon.
With the lack of rain this year, the summer chanterelle boom is probably still to happen. After we receive some rain in the next coming weeks, it’ll be another week’s wait or so for the new crop to grow.
Until then I will be replacing the exhaust gasket in the Subaru, writing a thank you note to Murphy, and crossing my fingers for rain.