phenology \ fi-ˈnä-lə-jē \ n 1 : a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering) 2: periodic biological phenomena that are correlated with climatic conditions.
Golden chanterelle mushroom (Cantharellus cibarius)
Labor Day isn’t just the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall, on the Olympic Peninsula, it also prompts mushroom hunters to start sharpening their fungus knives and planning their first foray into damp conifer forests to seek out chanterelles.
Their delicious woodsy flavor and meaty texture are just part of chanterelles’ appeal: it’s the adventure in hunting them that definitely gets people excited.
There are more than 40 varieties of mushrooms known as “chanterelles” across North America. Among the most commonon on the Peninsula are the Pacific chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), the white chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus), the winter chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis), and black chanterelle (Craterellus cornucopioides).
Like all chanterelle mushrooms, these local varieties have “false” gills that extend from a thick stem across the underside of the cap that is ridged rather than a smooth (and that has always reminded me of fluted pastry crust).
Because chanterelles show up at the same spot year after year, foragers can be very secretive about “their” chanterelle hunting grounds. You don’t need a permit to pick chanterelles for personal use, but there are rules and regulations for picking in the Olympic National Forest, Washington State Parks, and DNR-managed lands. You can legally pick up to one quart a day in the Olympic National Park for personal use.
While on your foraging ramble, don’t be fooled by the fake chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), which likes to grow in the same habitat as real chanterelles. The big giveaways of the fake chanterelle are its deeper orange color, rounded (rather than ridged) cap, true gills, and thinner stem. Fake chanterelles aren’t toxic, but they taste terrible. So bad, in fact, that you might not be faked out a second time when you’re on the hunt for the real thing.