Tag Archives: chanterelles

The Cantharellales rule supreme

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

31/10/2015

Chanterelles - 31/10/2015, Sussex.

Chanterelles – 31/10/2015, Sussex.

It’s been a superb October for fungi…if what you were after were members of the Cantharellales. If you were hoping for something else, it’s been somewhat less impressive. Yet again, the wild fungi have demonstrated that the only thing that isn’t surprising about their behaviour is their enduring capacity to surprise.

It was a good start to the season. From late August to mid-September there was a nice selection of brittlegills, milkcaps, agaricuses and large boletes to be found – typical fare for that time of year. It was also obvious from the get-go that it was going to be a stunning year for Cantharellus cibarius – I’d seen more Chanterelles by the middle of September than I had in the last four years put together.

Horn of Plenty - Sussex, 31/10/2015

Horn of Plenty – Sussex, 31/10/2015

Then we had a period of dry, warm weather and almost everything ground to a halt. I have been waiting for the recovery ever since, and there’s still no sign of it. Trekking through the woodland of Sussex and Kent this afternoon, you’d be forgiven for thinking it hasn’t rained in weeks, at least as far as the fungi are concerned. Nearly all the major groups of fungi are absent entirely. I was out for three hours today and I saw not a single Amanita, brittlegill, russula, Agaricus, puffball, webcap, deceiver, honey fungus or oyster mushroom. And the only bolete I found was a solitary Peppery Bolete.

Wrinkled Club - late October 2015, Kent.

Wrinkled Club – late October 2015, Kent.

There are some good edible things still to be found in numbers, and they all belong to the same taxonomic Order (an order is two levels above genus – humans belong to the order “primates”). That Order is called Cantherellales, and in addition to the Chanterelles (family Cantherellaceae) it includes a variety of other fungi including the Hedgehogs (Hydnaceae) and a family of club fungi called Clavulinaceae that look entirely unrelated to the well-known Cantherellales but have recently been moved there as the result of DNA testing. One unexpected advantage to situations like this is that I go to the bother of experimenting with what is available, and it turns out that Wrinkled Club – widely dismissed as not worth collecting – is rather good to eat! Perhaps not so surprising given that so many other things in its order are considered to be delicacies.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

My afternoon was rescued slightly right at the end by a trip to a local churchyard. Even here, things were not quite as you might expect for the end of October, but there were at least a few other things – a patch of Wood Blewits, another of Clouded Funnel, and few scattered waxcaps where last year there was a carpet.

So what on earth is going on? I have no idea why it is such a special year for the Chanterelles and their allies, but one thing this group tend to have in common is that they are slow growing and long lasting. That this was going to be a classic year for them was already decided long before the weather turned unseasonally warm and dry in mid-September. They also last for a long time once fruited, so the large numbers of Chanterelles, Horn of Plenty, Hedgehogs and Wrinkled Clubs were already growing before the weather changed. The other autumn fungi fall into two categories from where we currently are – the late summer and early autumn species, which had already fruited their hearts out by mid-September, and the later autumn species which hadn’t even got going. And even though November starts tomorrow, the average temperature hasn’t got low enough to trigger their fruiting. At least, that’s the best theory I can come up with, and if I am right then as soon as the temperature drops significantly there should be decent recovery, and maybe fungi all over the place.

So we must wait for the temperatures to drop, and see what happens. Unfortunately, the current long-range forecast is showing temperatures staying unseasonally high, well into November. Here’s a prediction: this mushroom season will see a second peak in the third week in November…

2013: a vintage year for fungi

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

05/12/2013

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides).  October 2013.

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides). October 2013.

All good things come to an end, and mushroom season 2013 has been one to remember; certainly the best since 2010, after the drought of 2011 and the washout of 2012, and better than 2010 for many species. I took my 35th and final group of the season out last Sunday (December 1st), and we were still finding winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) in their thousands, along with a few other bits and pieces. And it is that family, the Cantherellaceae, that I’ll especially remember 2013 for. They’ve all done brilliantly – not just the chanterelles (Cantherellus cibarius) that I’ve been finding since August, the Horns of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) that I’d never found in serious quantities before this year but in 2013 seemed to

turn up all over the place, the aforementioned winter chanterelles that have been even more

abundant than usual this year as well as arriving about a month early, but also the much rarer members of this family. There are quite a few of these, several of which I’ve still never seen, but this year more of them than not turned up either in people’s posts on various websites.

It has also been the best year I can remember for beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) and in late spring and early summer it was an absolute stormer for chicken of the woods (Laetiporus

Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica).  October 2013.

Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica). October 2013.

sulphureus). The boletes did OK but that’s all, which was a little disappointing given their poor showing the last two years, and most species put on at least a reasonable display relative to their average frequency. It’s always a poor year for something though, and 2013 was a fallow year for the shaggy parasols, which took a rest after their stellar performance in 2012. It was also notably bad for the usually-prolific wood blewit (Clitocybe nuda), as well as many of their relatives. I didn’t see a single specimen of the deadly fool’s funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa), for example.

Details of next year’s sessions/prices, including a series of suppers/talks in the evenings, are now available from the menu above.

This will be my last blog post for a little while, because I’ve recently bought a new house and I have a lot of work to do sorting out a vegetable plot and building a pond and rockery. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year.

Geoff

Honey Fungus: Armillaria on the march

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

10/10/2013

Temperatures across the UK have plunged several degrees. It was T-shirt weather just two days ago, but I needed a coat this morning. The first major fall of leaves is also underway in the deep south, and there has been a changing of the mushroom guard as the late summer species fade away and the mid-autumn species make their first appearance.

I saw clouded funnel (Clitocybe nebularis) for the first time yesterday, which generally marks the halfway point in the progression of autumn-fruiting fungi. This species likes growing right next to roads and is recognisable as you drive past at 60mph, which leaves little doubt about just how common it is. It never has an off-year. Shame it smells of vomit! Anyway…it reliably turns up at the mid-point of the mushroom season and that is right now.

A wide selection of Tricholomas have also appeared in the last few days, along with another species which never has an off-year: honey fungus (Armillaria) is so super-abundant as to make even the displays of Clouded Funnel look sparse. Combined with the fact it is a virulent parasite and serious forestry/horticultural pest, this means that unlike so many other good edible fungi, foragers can eat Honey Fungus to their heart’s content with absolutely no worries about sustainability or the ethics of taking lots of stuff. The only problem with taking too much of this one is that you might end up with more than you can consume, and you absolutely do not want to be putting any on your compost heap – not if you value the trees and shrubs in your garden, anyway.

Armillaria mellea ("true" Honey Fungus) on the march. Mid-October 2013

Armillaria mellea (“true” Honey Fungus) on the march. Mid-October 2013

I can’t help but associate the word “army” with “Armillaria”; the fruit bodies seem to march across some logs and stumps just like an army on the move. In many cases this fungus will have been the cause of death of those trees – it is one of the few organisms which is both parasitic and saprophytic – capable of killing a living tree and then continuing to feast on its corpse. If you fancy feasting in turn on it then make sure you cook it well and be aware that some people suffer gastric problems after consuming it. My favourite way to cook it is in the roasting dish with a fatty joint of meat, or fried for ten minutes in bacon fat. Long cooking reduces the chance of a reaction, apparently. Either way, it is very tasty.

“Armillaria” does not have any connection with armies, by the way. It derives from the latin “armilla”, meaning “bracelet” and refering to the bracelet-like ring on the stem (see picture). This is one of the identifying features of the species (although there is a ringless form). It’s not the easiest fungi to identify, owing to there being so many other species which grow in great tufts from decaying logs. The pattern on the cap is probably the most helpful indicator, but my advice is just to look at quite a few pictures on the internet and keep your eyes peeled for the next couple of weeks. You will soon learn how to recognise it, and once it is familiar then the only thing you might get it mixed up with is one of the Pholiota species, none of which are seriously poisonous, although some of them don’t mix well with alcohol.

Geoff at a fungi talk and tasting session at The Garden House, Brighton.  October 2013.

The author at a fungi talk and tasting session at The Garden House, Brighton. October 2013.

2013 is also (apparently) turning out to be a vintage year for the chanterelle family.  I’ve been seeing considerably more chanterelles (Cantherellus cibarius) than normal, winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) have appeared earlier than normal, yesterday’s group of foraging students happened across a the largest fruiting of horns of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) I’ve ever seen and we also found the very rare velvet chanterelle (Cantherellus friesii). To top it all, somebody posted a picture yesterday at Wild Mushrooms Online of the even rarer ashen chanterelle (Cantherellus cinereus).

As a final note I’d just like to thank The Garden House for hosting a highly enjoyable fungi talk last Friday, a review of which can be found here.

No Girolles Please, We’re British

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

16/09/2013

“By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising…kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I’m doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan’s little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: ‘There’s gonna be a joke comin’ up.’ There’s no f*****’ joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself…borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something…rid the world of your evil f*****’ presence.”

(American comic/philosopher Bill Hicks)

At the risk of being accused of inverted snobbery…

What would you think if you read a recipe supposedly written in English, and it asked for 200 grams of oignon? What if you were in a British restaurant and saw “boeuf” of the menu? Answer: if you’ve got any sense, you’d know that the person who had written it was a pretentious twit. This is Britain, and the appropriate words to use are “onion” and “beef”. Writing “oignon” or “boeuf” is every bit as ludicrous as starting the ingredients/contents list of a food or toiletry product with “aqua”, as if anybody was actually dumb enough to know that this isn’t plain old water, or was convinced to buy something they wouldn’t otherwise have bought because “aqua” sounds cooler, or higher class.

This sort of pretentious twittery infests the food industry, and occasionally it also misleads people so they aren’t capable of understanding the recipe or menu item, and at this point it becomes an abuse of language. It also makes the already-difficult job of learning to identify wild mushrooms even harder. But hey, why demystify people when you’re trying to impress them?

I’ve spent many years berating people for calling penny buns by their French (“cep”) or Italian (“porcino”) names. What is wrong with “penny bun”? Do “cepes” taste nicer? Are “porcini” higher class? Fortunately this particular example doesn’t usually lead to people getting the species wrong, because there is only one species involved. The same does not apply to the names “chanterelle” and “girolle”.

The name “girolle” is only used by pretentious chefs, the menus and recipes they are responsible for, and by members of the public who have been misled by the aforementioned pretentious chefs into believing that the fungus with the latin name Cantherellus cibarius is legitimately referred to in English as a “girolle”. The same chefs then use the common name “chanterelle” to refer to another species – Craterellus tubaeformis (previously known as Cantherelllus tubaeformis). Confused? Blame the pretentious chefs.

In France, C. tubaeformis is known as a chanterelle, and C. cibarius is known as a girolle. Fine, if you are writing in French. If you’re English, and writing in English, then it is not fine, because the result is confusion like this by Galton Blackiston, on the BBC website:

—————————————————————–
75g/2½oz porcini mushrooms, sliced

75g/2½oz girolle mushrooms, sliced

75g/2½oz chanterelle mushrooms
—————————————————————–

Because this recipe uses both species concerned, it is possible to see what has gone wrong. “Chanterelle” is hotlinked on this page to http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chanterelle_mushrooms , which states that “chanterelles are wild mushrooms with a bright orangey colour that grow particularly well in Scotland and in Scandinavia, where they are highly prized.” Nope, that’s not what Galton meant. He meant “dingy brown mushrooms that grow particularly well in pine woodland all over north-west Europe in the late autumn and early winter”. The bright orangey ones he’s called “girolles”, and just for good measure he’s thrown in some Italian as well, because “Penny Bun” wasn’t pretentious enough. This mistake is not the fault of the HTML coder at the BBC, who has simply as assumed that Mr Blackiston is writing in English rather than French, and doesn’t happen to be a chef or an expert on mousserons. Oops! I meant mushrooms.

This is not just pointless Académie-française-style language fascism – it does not matter if French words are adopted into the English language when no English equivalent already exists. It is a real problem, assuming you actually want people to be able to understand what you’re writing. In the above case the error is only visible because both species are being used at the same time. If the recipe just says “chanterelle”, then this mis-use of language means that nobody can know which of the two species anybody is talking about, unless they clarify by using the latin name too.

So, for the record:

These…

Chanterelles (Cantherellus cibarius)

 

…are chanterelles. They are not “girolles”, unless you are French, or pretentious.

And these…

Winter Chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis)

 

…are winter chanterelles (or trumpet chanterelles, or yellowlegs). They are not “chanterelles”, unless you are French, or pretentious.

Both species are fruiting in the UK right now. The chanterelles are heading towards their last flush of the season, and the winter chanterelles have just started to appear (I found some three days ago, considerably earlier than I usually do, and just in time for the masterclasses at the Brighton Food Festival).  Both are also delicious.  This is not about safety – it is about using language for what is for (communicating, preferably clearly and accurately) instead of using it in the way marketing people use it.

Geoff

Brighton Food Festival Masterclasses

09/07/2013

Tickets are now available for two mushroom foraging masterclasses on the closing weekend of the Brighton Autumn Harvest Food Festival (Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of September).

A typical mid-September collection of (mainly) edible fungi, primarily boletes in this case, but there's also some russulas, amethyst deceivers and millers in there, as well as an inedible (too bitter) species that the collector was hoping (in vain) might be hallucinogenic.

A typical mid-September collection of (mainly) edible fungi, primarily boletes in this case, but there’s also a parasol, some russulas, amethyst deceivers and millers in there, as well as an inedible (too bitter) species that the collector was hoping (in vain) might be hallucinogenic.

These will be held in the Live Food Show Marquee on Hove Lawns at 11am. The aim is to give a general introduction to foraging for wild mushrooms in the UK, but with a hands-on emphasis on whatever is actually growing in the Sussex countryside at that time. Each year is different, and the middle of September can turn out to be anything between the start of the season, when things are only just getting going, to the point where the biggest variety of species are available of any time in the year. It all depends on the weather. However, some things are pretty much guaranteed, so I’ll be surprised if I’m not able to bring along, for example, some fairy ring mushrooms (Marasmius oreades) and their deadly lookalike fool’s funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa). I would also normally expect to find some chanterelles around this time, and a nice selection of boletes, but who knows what the Mushroom Gods will bring us? One thing for sure is whatever I manage to find in Sussex that weekend, there will be more of it growing for other people to find. This is a typical feature of the way the fungi grow – the same species appears at the same time in multiple locations where the conditions have been similar (and this can include most of England, not just the Home Counties).

Books and the internet are invaluable learning tools, but there is no substitute for actually seeing, touching and smelling a wild mushroom. I will be bringing edible species, poisonous species and very common species. As well as introducing the foraging and identification of wild fungi, I’ll be cooking up some samples for people to try, and the students will also be able to take some of the edible ones home with them.

See festival website for tickets.