- Similar Species/ Variations
- Look Alikes
- Medicinal Info
- Drying and Freezing
This very large species can grow for up to 6 weeks!
Cantharellus californicus, sometimes called the mud puppy or oak chanterelle, is a fungus native to California, United States. It is a member of the genus Cantharellus along with other popular edible chanterelles. It is generally similar in appearance to C. cibarius and C. formosus except for its large size at maturity; individual specimens larger than 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) are reported, making it the largest known species of chanterelle. Their unusual size is due in part to their capacity for indeterminate growth, making Cantharellus californicus specimens actively grow for far longer than most other mushrooms. The pileus (cap) of C. californicus is 8–30 centimetres (3.1–11.8 in) wide or greater, and yellow-orange in color although adhering leaf litter may cause a mottled color; may become brownish with age. The hymenium is folded into decurrent ridges (false gills) and cross-veins, which deepen with age. The color of these ridges is usually similar to the pileus but paler. The stipe (stem) is up to 4 centimetres (1.6 in) wide and 9 centimetres (3.5 in) long, with coloration similar to the hymenium. Cantharellus californicus forms a mycorrhizal association with oaks, particularly coast live oak in the woodlands of Coastal California. It has also been found in association with interior live oak, California black oak, canyon live oak, tanoak, and possibly Pacific madrone and manzanita. C. californicus is a popular wild edible in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is most common between November and April.
Several other species of chanterelle may be found in western North America:
- C. cascadensis — bright yellow fading to white in center of cap, associated with conifers
- C. cibarius var. roseocanus — false gills tend to be as dark or darker than cap
- C. formosus — smaller size, narrower stem, associated with conifers
- C. subalbidus — whitish overall color
Many species of chanterelles contain antioxidant carotenoids, such as beta-carotene in C. cibarius and C. minor, and canthaxanthin in C. cinnabarinus and C. friesii. They also contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Scientific research has suggested that the golden chanterelle may have potent insecticidal properties that are harmless to humans and yet protect the mushroom body against insects and other potentially harmful organisms.
Drying and Freezing:
Since the mushrooms hold a lot of water, they are often prepared using a “dry sauté” method: after cleaning, the mushrooms are sliced and put in a covered pan over high heat with no oil or butter. The mushrooms then release much of their water, which can be allowed to boil off or be poured off and used as a stock. Many people often cook the mushrooms with butter because it “sweetens” them. Chanterelles can also be pickled in brine. Salted water is brought to a boil and pickling spices such as peppercorns, mustard seeds, and thyme are added. The mushrooms are then cooked in this solution for 5–10 minutes before being transferred to sterilized bottles along with some of the liquid. Sliced garlic and dill can be added to the bottles for extra flavor. The remaining liquid forms an excellent stock for making soup. When pickled in this way, chanterelles can last from six to twelve months. Another storage technique is drying. Mushrooms can be dried with gentle heat in an oven at temperatures of 65 °C (149 °F) or less. A vacuum process is also practical on large orders. A few hours before final preparation, put dry mushrooms in water which they absorb for returning to nearly original size. Mushrooms can then be used as fresh, and will last indefinitely as dry. Fresh chanterelles can generally be stored up to ten days in a refrigerator. Chanterelles are also well-suited for drying, and tend to maintain their aroma and consistency quite well. Some chefs profess that reconstituted chanterelles are actually superior in flavor to fresh ones, though they lose in texture whatever they gain in flavor by becoming more chewy after being preserved by drying. Dried chanterelles can also be crushed into flour and used in seasoning in soups or sauces. Chanterelles are also suitable for freezing, though older frozen chanterelles can often develop a slightly bitter taste after thawing.
Though records of chanterelles being eaten date back to the 16th century, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 18th century, when they began appearing in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Nowadays, the usage of chanterelles in the kitchen is common throughout Europe and North America. In 1836, the Swedish mycologist Elias Fries considered the chanterelle “as one of the most important and best edible mushrooms.”
Chanterelles as a group are generally described as being rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste and aroma difficult to characterize. Some species have a fruity odor, others a more woody, earthy fragrance, and still others can even be considered spicy. The golden chanterelle is perhaps the most sought-after and flavorful chanterelle, and many chefs consider it on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles and morels. It therefore tends to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty stores.
There are many ways to cook chanterelles. Most of the flavorful compounds in chanterelles are fat-soluble, making them good mushrooms to sauté in butter, oil or cream. They also contain smaller amounts of water- and alcohol-soluble flavorings, which lend the mushrooms well to recipes involving wine or other cooking alcohols. Many popular methods of cooking chanterelles include them in sautés, soufflés, cream sauces, and soups. They are not typically eaten raw, as their rich and complex flavor is best released when cooked.