Since finding the impressive cauliflower mushrooms in the woods on the northern ridge of the Rhymney Valley, I have to dutifully record another fungal find – a couple of small patches of chanterelles or Cantharellus cibarius.
These first appeared in the dying days of August though I left them for a couple of days before harvesting them as they were too small and too few to make much of meal. It was a risky strategy but it paid off and five days later I picked about a dozen significantly larger specimens.
To some, they are the most prized of British mushrooms but you have to distinguish them from the false chanterelle.
Both are relatively small – up to about 9cm across the cap – with short, often-bent stems and range from bright yellow to orange. The caps flatten out as they get older then turn upwards and flute around the rim. They grow on mossy banks, often close to conifers as mine were.
The best guide books agree the most clearly distinguishing feature between the two types are the gills. In the chanterelle, these are called false gills and are like shallow veins, branching and relatively spaced apart. In the false chanterelle they are much more closely packed and finer.
I was thankful to be able to judge them on this with confidence because several other traits used to distinguish them seem to be of little use.
Cantharellus cibarius is said to have a faint apricot smell – but not is you have a late summer cold and a bunged up nose.
The colour was one cited in most books – the chanterelle being more yellow than the orange false chanterelle. But in the very same books the accompanying photographs showed them to be of almost exactly the same colour. I guess this trait varies significantly, as does the consistency of book printing processes.
And I can testify that they turn a more generic beige as they dry. Mine have just finished drying but still only look like a mouthful, so I’m saving them in the hope that I‘ll find a few more before the season is out.