Thursday, December 4, 2008

Goodbye Chanterelles

It's December and the Golden Chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius) have disappeared after a several month run here at One Block West. Goodbye chanterelles! See you next year! But weep not, for the end of chanterelle season always signals the beginning of the seasons for both hedgehog mushrooms and black trumpets.

Hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum repandum), so called because they don't have gills like typical mushrooms but rather teeth-like spore bearing structures that resemble the spines on a hedgehog. Hedgehogs range the color spectrum from light blonde to almost golden, similar to a golden chanterelle. I like to call them mushrooms with training wheels, because they are one of the best tasting and easiest to like mushrooms. For those just starting to eat wild mushrooms, hedgehogs are the perfect introductory mushroom. There are similar looking inedible mushrooms, so hedgehogs are perhaps not a great mushroom for the beginning forager.

The other mushroom that we have in stock right now is the Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax), also known by the French name Trompet de mort, Death Trumpet. It's possible that our mushrooms are in fact Horn of Plenty Mushrooms (C. cornucopioides), very similar cousins to Black Trumpets, so similar in fact, that some mycological taxonomists are not sure that the two represent distinct species. Oh well, let the taxonomists argue, we're calling them Black Trumpets and enjoying them.

Trumpets run the color spectrum from light brown to gray to black to almost blue black. They are not easily confused with other mushrooms and are therefore a pretty reliable mushroom for the novice forager. Make sure that you clean trumpets well. Their funnel-shaped bodies collect all manner of dirt, especially bits of oak leaves, because trumpets are almost always found in oak (and beech) forests.

Want to be sinful? Go buy a wheel of really good Camembert or Brie, some puff pastry sheets, and a half a pound of trumpets. Sauté the trumpets in clarified butter with some shallots and season with salt and pepper. Slice the cheese in half horizontally and hollow out each half a bit. Stuff the cheese with the mushrooms and reassemble it. Wrap in puff pastry and bake until brown. If you don't love this dish, you're probably lactose intolerant like me!

I find it interesting that both Hedgehogs and Black Trumpets are closely related to Chanterelles. And next up in our line up in late winter with be another Chanterelle, the Yellowfoot (Craterellus tubaeformis), about the only mushroom going after hedgehogs give out and until we get the first flush of local morels in April.

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