Chanterelle mushrooms are abundant and easy to find on the Oregon coast. The moist summers and consistent rain, mixed with shade from the forest cover, make the Oregon coast the perfect place for chanterelle mushrooms to grow.
We went for a walk at my husband’s family property in Bandon, Oregon with the goal to find chanterelles for dinner. The property is on a lake, and covered with thick Pacific Northwest Forest growth like giant Doug firs, large conifers, ferns, and birch — making it a haven for the golden (or white) mushroom.
To our surprise, we found hundreds of chanterelles! We only picked what we needed for dinner, and have plenty more to harvest during our stay here. We also found other local mushrooms on our journey.
Also, here’s my disclaimer — the only thing we know about wild mushrooms is from family folk-lore, a phone app, and a handy book that’s been at the cabin since 1973. Don’t eat a mushroom unless you 100% know what it is, and that it’s not going to kill you (or give you awful gastric pain).
What are Chanterelles?
Golden chanterelle (or Cantharellus cibarius) are very common wild mushrooms and their bright orange color (though some are yellow, white, or black) makes them easy to spot. The edible mushroom tastes almost peppery and fruity (my husband says they remind him of apricot). The mushrooms are delicate, and soften when cooked (they melt in your mouth!).
How to identify Chanterelles
Chanterelles are often white or bright orange, and the latter variety are the easiest to spot. We found most of our mushrooms about 5-10 inches from the base of a birch, Douglas fir, or other old growth trees, and near the edge of the walking paths. The mushrooms generally grow independently, not in a group, and not on trees. The gills are false gills which terminate at the smooth stem.
Chanterelles do have imposter look-alikes. One is the jack-o’-lantern mushroom, which is toxic. It’s bright orange, but the mushrooms grow in a group. The gills are non-forking and actually glow in the dark. Another imposter is the woolly chanterelle (or scaly chanterelle), which looks similar but has a darker center and smell like mushrooms, rather than fruit. While they are not toxic, they don’t taste good.
How to forage chanterelle mushrooms
My husband’s cabin has a funny tool to harvest mushrooms. It’s essentially a paintbrush with a knife on it. The brush is to brush off the dirt on top of the mushroom and the knife is to cut the stem. You want to cut the mushroom for two reasons, one you’ll have less dirty and two, apparently cutting will help the mushroom grow back within the same season.
How to clean and prep chanterelles
Since chanterelles are so delicate, you have to be very delicate when cleaning the mushroom. We use a method of taking very cold water, dunking the chanterelles one at a time and using a soft brush to remove the dirt. Pulling the mushrooms in half will allow you to get all the dirt out of the mushrooms. Then we line a paper bag with paper towels and put the mushrooms in it to dry. From there you can leave them in the refrigerator for a few days or you can throw them in the dehydrator to use later.
What other mushrooms did we find?
Mushrooms are natures little art projects and we loved finding new mushrooms and trying to identify each one. We also found other non-edible mushrooms on our walk — some of which we were able to identify with our field book. The turbinellus kauffmanii is vase-shaped, beige to light brown, and not edible. The red-banded polypore (well, we think that’s what it is) growing on downed tree. We also found fat jacks, penny buns, lobster mushrooms, lots of slimy waxcaps, coral mushrooms, and even a beautiful blue-green saffron milk cap.
Searching for chanterelles is a fun game, and it feels like winning the lottery every time you find one. They are a nice and natural treat, and finding them yourself makes them so much tastier!
Here’s a video of our mushroom hunting adventure in Bandon, Oregon — near the Oregon coast:
Tonight, my husband just cut them in half and sautéed the mushrooms in garlic and butter. However, we’re here for about two weeks, so we’ll be playing with recipes and different ways to prep the chanterelles.